James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Clay // Film Critic
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND
Rated R, 136 minutes.
Director: Judd Apatow
Cast: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Bel Powley, Maude Apatow, Moises Arias, Ricky Velez, Lou Wilson, Luke David Blumm, Alexis Rae Forlenza, Jimmy Tatro, Pamela Adlon and Steve Buscemi
Back when THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND’s release was getting pivoted from theatrical to VOD, the vitriol surrounding star Pete Davidson came with a quickness. He’s an easy target, but it’s largely all incredibly misguided. So, here’s one last-ditch effort to back up Davidson’s freewheeling, yet heart-stirring story. The jam-packed disc of extras provides loads of context to what Davidson and filmmaker Judd Apatow were hitting at with this endearing story disguised as a stoner comedy.
Much of the criticism stemmed from the 136-minute runtime and relaxed pacing in developing a plot or any sense of dramatic urgency. What Apatow was able to accomplish is to let the pacing mirror how our main character, Scott (Davidson), is wandering through life. As an audience member, you feel that frustration and lack of direction. Luckily for viewers, there’s a sense of spontaneity and traditional Apatow one-liners to bolster the film when it starts to spin its wheels a bit.
Partly, one cannot help but want Apatow to dive a little deeper and fully adopt the template of films he seems to be paying homage to, such as James L. Brooks’ AS GOOD AS IT GETS or Robert Benton’s KRAMER VS. KRAMER. These comedic films take their time to develop with humor and creep up on you with a truly dramatic punch that speaks to your soul. Or, maybe Apatow knows where his strengths lie in bringing a cinematic experience to a comedic voice and turning it into one compelling piece of, dare I say, art.
Anyways, here’s an excerpt from my VOD review:
When THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND is at the height of its powers, the improv is servicing the characters while searching for higher truth and embracing its own shaggy flaws. This isn’t as much of a dig as it is a compliment for a filmmaker who lets the film’s identity inform his own creative choices. Working alongside cinematographer Robert Elswitt (THERE WILL BE BLOOD) is a huge asset for bringing the audience into Scott’s orbit. It gives the story a strong sense of place and color palette that provides a shockingly gorgeous visual aesthetic. For a filmmaker whose films made hundreds of millions of dollars telling the stories of stinky dudes who collect toys, Apatow has stayed within those lines while growing immensely as a five-tool filmmaker.
Davidson is, more or less, playing an exaggerated version of himself stumbling through life, and he approaches the role with a fearlessness that speaks to the masses who suffer from crippling behaviors that occupy their potential in life. The directions Scott’s story takes are filled with little diversions and digressions that are true to life, and where he finds comfort comes in some of the most unexpected locations.
Apatow’s movies have typically come packed full of features, like deleted scenes, gag reels, line-o-ramas — you know, all that type of frivolous stuff that doesn’t really amount to much other than a passing watch as you catch up on text messages. (SUPERBAD features being a hilarious exception.)
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND is next level for its creativity and reverence for the project. There are specialized features to highlight Bill Burr, Bel Powley, and Marisa Tomei’s heartwarming performances. (Nothing like showing a little appreciation to your co-workers.) Also included is a 30-minute production diary guided by Apatow. This release is a bit of an experience and has well over five hours of content (including the feature).
Highlighted Special Features:
Feature Commentary – Commentaries are such a treat and are a rarity these days. Sit down for 136 minutes with Davidson and Apatow as they discuss the film.
The Kid From Staten Island – A 20-minute sit-down chat with Davidson and Apatow. They discuss how they became collaborators and the joys of filming a movie loosely based on your life.
Judd Apatow’s Production Diary – Nothing is as joyous as seeing a filmmaker descent into the madness of their project. Still, Apatow is a pretty measured dude, and this journey through the film production from the director’s perspective is an absolute delight. More filmmakers should do this if they have time while filming.
Papa: Working with Steve Buscemi – Only three minutes long, but this snippet sings the praises of the legend Steve Buscemi.
Tribute to Scott Davidson – This is a tipping of the cap to Davidson’s departed father, who, as an NYC first responder, sacrificed his life during the 9/11 attacks. Much respect.
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND is available today for purchase on disc and Digital HD.