With the ‘rona closing down theaters across the globe, lots of movies have pushed back their release dates. Others have opted to go to streaming or VOD. For the most part, my reactions to the movies moved to the net have been either “eh whatever, I’ll get to it at some point then” or “oh thank God, I didn’t really wanna see this but was prolly gonna anyway”. If nothing else, I figured that some of these would find their way to a screen once things started opening (I’d heard Trolls was one of the few new things playing at the theaters that have reopened). But it’s looking like the widespread reopenings are being pushed back (which I’m torn about because I don’t wanna go see a movie while I feel unsafe, but also theaters being open means my job working on their software is more secure) and it’ll be sometime until I do get to see those lost films. Well some are on streaming that I have access to, but we know I don’t prioritize those. However, there’s one movie lost in the VOD shuffle that I did need to see. The King of Staten Island. Why? In Judd we (I) trust.
Huge huge fan of Judd Apatow (and his films like 40 Year Old Virgin or Knocked Up), and it’s been a while since he’s had a new movie. Right there, that moves it up the priority list. But was the movie actually was is what made me want to shell out the 20 bucks for the VOD rental. The film stars Pete Davidson and is sorta loosely based on his life as a world class screwup but overall nice guy who doesn’t really try because he doesn’t really know how to. He’s just doing his best. Early buzz was jokes about how with this year’s Oscar pool all screwy, we might see Davidson’s name on some short lists. Except they weren’t really jokes because he really was that good.
Anyways, I’d been budgeting 5 bucks a week to rent a movie from Alamo, and after I’d skipped one week cause I wasn’t feeling it, I realized I could just skip a couple more weeks to pool my budget and justify the steep rental price. I know, there’s times where I’ll gladly play twenty bucks to see something at Alamo, but renting a film to watch at home doesn’t quite seem as worth it. Especially due to attention span issues we’ve previously discussed. But I was willing to give it a go. Besides, dialog driven films (as I expected this to be) tend to go better at home than action driven ones. It’d be worth it. And it was.
I gave a high level summary, but I’ll dig in a bit more. As I said, Davidson’s Scott is a world class screwup. Can’t do anything right. No job, no high school degree, lives with his mom. He spends all his time smoking weed and giving crappy tattoos. He has no direction and frankly wouldn’t even know what to do with it if he had it. His firefighter father passed away when he was young, and he’s given up on trying to live up to his saint-like memory. Then Mom starts dating a fireman from the same company, which stirs up all kinds of issues for him. On top of that, Mom now wants him to get his act together and move out. But where does he even start?
The thing that Apatow is most known of his is humor, and it’s certainly woven throughout the film. But it’s not a laugh a minute type of comedy. I say that not as a criticism, but to set expectations. More important than the humor is the heart that carries the movie. I’d recently rewatched 40 Year Old Virgin and I realized that heart is what carries that film too. Everyone remembers the funny lines and awkward scenes, but it’s ultimately a very sensitive and thoughtful character story. So was Staten Island.
When I did my Stardust reaction, I’d said that Davidson was born for this role. I realized later that it’s kind of an inaccurate statement because this role was literally written for him, with his input and bits of his biography. So it’s not that he was such a good fit it’s like he was created for it, but rather it’s like his whole purpose of being here was to inspire and create this film. He really is as good as everyone is saying, and it’s because he’s lived this. I heard Apatow telling Colbert or some other late night host that Davidson was sending him other actors’ resumes right up until shooting started because he didn’t think he was capable of acting this role. He was more than capable.
Oh also sidebar about Davidson, I think I kinda get the appeal. It’s been such a mystery how he’s been able to get girlfriends like Ariana Grande and Kate Beckinsale. The whole BDE idea started because of him. Speaking as someone with a bit (maybe more than a bit) of a Messiah complex (by which I mean a strong desire to help or save someone), I was drawn to him here. He’s a total wreck in desperate need of “saving”, but he’s also just such a good guy. You don’t wanna save the guy who’s gonna be a total ass. You wanna save the puppy dog who deserves it and who will be grateful. You wanna save Pete Davidson.
I will say that while I thoroughly enjoyed this film, it did take a while to get going. When we met our character, he spelled out some of his mental issues and roadblocks in life. “Awesome!” I thought. “We need to spotlight and destigmatize these things.” Then it felt a little stalled, which I think is just the nature of writing around a character who is doing nothing. Nothing happens until he starts making it happen. Once the ball did get rolling tho, this became one of those movies that I loved more and more with every passing frame. By the time we reached the end, I didn’t want it to end. I knew he’d been set on a path, but I wanted to see him follow it. It prolly did end at the right moment, but I wanted so much more.
I don’t typically rate movies I watch at home, but seeing as how I totally would have seen it in a theater (and payed theater prices for it)…
The King of Staten Island – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/