A basement-dwelling aspiring tattoo artist begins to take the first steps towards a meaningful life in The King of Staten Island. Scott Carlin (Pete Davidson) is a 24-year-old high school dropout, who lives in the basement of his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei) and has aspirations about being a tattoo artist. Life becomes complicated for Scott when his mother begins dating firefighter Ray Bishop (Bill Burr), which brings up painful memories of Scott’s father, who was a firefighter, who had died in the line of duty.
The King of Staten Island is the latest directorial effort by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Trainwreck), with a story that is loosely inspired by the life of co-writer and star Pete Davidson, whose firefighter father died during 9/11. We are introduced to Scott Carlin as deadbeat 20-something coasting through life, spending much of his time smoking pot with his friends and having a sexual relationship with Kelsey (Bel Powley), whom he’s reluctant to call his girlfriend. However, when his sister Claire (Maude Apatow) heads off to college and mother Margie begins dating Ray, Scott is forced to make a decision about moving forward with his life.
Like many of the films directed by Judd Apatow, The King of Staten Island is a film that can be described as a raunchy comedy, which also has many dramatic elements. In addition, as 2015’s Trainwreck was a platform to launch the film career of Amy Schumer, The King of Staten Island is a platform for Pete Davidson, who was best known up until this point as a featured cast member of Saturday Night Live.
The main crux of the story of The King of Staten Island is the adversarial relationship between Scott Carlin and Ray Bishop, the latter played by Boston comic Bill Burr, appearing very much like a mustachioed Billy Corgan. At one point in the story, Scott is forced to stay with Ray at the fire station, where he slowly gains the respect of the other firefighters, particularly the station chief Papa (Steve Buscemi). This in turn causes Scott to rethink his disdain for firefighters and the rose-coloured memories he has of his father.
The King of Staten Island is definitely a film that leans more toward the dramatic end of the “dramedy” spectrum, with me even going as far as to argue that the film is probably the least funny of the films Judd Apatow has directed. However, that’s probably not a bad thing, since The King of Staten Island ends up being a quite solid coming-of-age story.