THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND
TWO STARS Tragedy hits a family when their teenage boy discovers his girlfriend is pregnant.
Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomeii
DRAMA COMEDY #THEKINGOFSTATENISLAND
Fans of Judd Apatow (KNOCKED UP or THE FORTY YEAR OLD VIRGIN) might well be disappointed by his latest drama-comedy which is disengagingly light on both - THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND is neither particularly dramatic nor particularly funny. Others might argue that this is exactly what you should expect from a director known for the diminishing returns (the jury remains mixed on TRAINWRECK) of his overlong comedies.
Meet Scott (SNL funny guy Pete Davidson), a 24 year old man-child who lives with his widowed mother, has no job prospects, no girlfriend that he’ll admit to publicly and who prefers to hang around with his dope-smoking dead-beat millennial dropout mates. It's a great set up for an exploration of a failing generation dealt a bum card by the Boomer dealer. This is not that film because Scott has ‘issues’, so his failures stem from a different place. In fact we know Scott has a big chunk of crazy in him from a pre-credit sequence where he’s speeding along a freeway with his eyes closed.
But then? Well, nothing and this is one of KOSI’s significant problems. It feels like Apatow has written a series of disconnected sequences which, entertaining enough on their own, together form a lifeless narrative. There is one over-arching thread concerning Mum’s new boyfriend, Scott’s jealousy and the path all three take to reconciliation. But there are also a number of threads that lead nowhere or are dropped without explanation. One such involves Scott’s mates getting busted for armed robbery which sees them exit the film in the blink of an uncaring eye. Is this part of his mental illness, lazy writing or is his illness an excuse for lazy writing? My money is on the latter.
Consequently there’s little sympathy, actually there’s NO sympathy for Scott’s position. He lands as a selfish millennial forced to grow up when his mother (a standout Marisa Tomeii - the sole reason for watching KOSI) takes back her life while her son sorts out his daddy issues. If this were the ‘promised’ exploration of a grasping generation, it would make sense. But Apatow doesn’t go there. Nor is he able to find much comic value in Scott’s plight - the character (and perhaps Davidson) just aren’t likeable enough for that to happen.
So we're left with a couple of interesting moments in a desert of self-indulgence which, given the demanding runtime (two and a quarter hours for a comedy?!), it's pretty indulgent. Eleven years have passed since Apatow last wrote his own feature and, Marisa Tomeii aside, the wait really hasn’t proved worth it.