Judd Apatow’s reputation may have been forged around adolescent hijinks, but there has always been a more serious message lurking beneath the juvenile jokes. His comedy revolves around the idea that humour is a way of coping with pain, and in The King of Staten Island, that is more apparent than ever.

Scott (Pete Davidson) is a typical Apatow protagonist, a weed-smoking loser with a fear of intimacy, though the darker parts of his personality—his Crohn’s disease, his suicidal thoughts, and his firefighter father who died on the job—are all from Davidson’s own life. It’s easily the darkest territory Apatow has covered, but his lightness of touch and tragicomic instincts turn that pain into something powerful.

Apatow, Davidson and Dave Sirus’ script is at its best when dissecting the complexities of people’s flawed personalities, and how so often we simply need to learn to get out of our own way in order to succeed.

The film really hits its stride when Scott finally begins doing the hard work required to achieve anything in life. He’s finally facing up to his arrested development, rather than wallowing in it, and this allows the supporting cast to really shine. Marisa Tomei is excellent as Scott’s mum, showing the perfect mix of sympathy and exasperation towards her grief-stricken son. Pamela Adlon is fantastic in a brief, scene-stealing performance, and Bill Burr is the ideal spiky presence to spur Scott into action.

Like so many of Apatow’s films it’s baggy, though this time from a glut of story threads rather than indulgent improv. It would have been better 20 minutes shorter, something Apatow should really get tattooed on himself at this point, but that doesn’t detract much from his most moving, insightful and mature film yet, led by a breakout performance from Pete Davidson.



CAST: Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei, Bel Powley, Pamela Adlon, Steve Buscemi

DIRECTOR: Judd Apatow

WRITERS: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson, Dave Sirus

SYNOPSIS: Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.