The King of Staten Island Movie Review

Pete Davidson is not your average Saturday Night Live cast member. He is less known for characters he plays and is more known for essentially portraying himself on Weekend Update sketches. That includes warts and all with his much publicized romantic life, struggles with mental health and drug issues, and tragic family history. It is no surprise that Judd Apatow is the director to bring his semi autobiographical story to the big screen in The King of State Island. And the Apatow treatment comes with the high points of his previous efforts. It also comes with the warts and all of his pics that includes an unnecessarily lengthy running time and subplots that don’t really pan out.

The big screen treatment ended up being a misnomer since Island went the Video on Demand route due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Davidson is Scott Carlin, an aimless 24 year old living with his mom Margie (Marisa Tomei) in the borough where it is joked that New Jersey looks down upon. His little sister (Maude Apatow) is an achiever who is moving along to college. Scott’s longtime friend and sort of girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley) is a glass half full type in contrast with his constantly half empty outlook. The similarities between Davidson and his character are hard to miss. Scott’s father was a firefighter who died in the line of duty and so did Davidson’s on 9/11. Substance abuse and effects of ADD are prevalent with Scott and, as mentioned, the actor hasn’t been shy about addressing those matters.

One key difference: Davidson has been a pop culture fixture on the famous sketch comedy show for a few years. The man he is playing isn’t accomplishing much of anything. His idea to open a tattoo parlor/restaurant is met with understandable skepticism. Scott’s arrested development is dealt a setback when Margie finds romance after 17 years of being a widow with fireman Ray (Bill Burr). Their courtship elevates his anxieties to a new level.

Apatow, over the past decade and half, has elevated numerous comedic performers to new heights. These include Steve Carell in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Seth Rogen in Knocked Up, and Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. The similarities here are most in line with the latter as Davidson’s known persona is put through the cinematic lens. As an avid SNL watcher, I have found his bits occasionally inspired and frequently a little grating. It is a credit to Apatow and Davidson that Island finds a balance that is primarily satisfying. However, that’s not to say there aren’t issues. Island is too long. A subplot regarding Scott and his buddies and a pharmaceutical heist could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. While it often deftly switches between humorous and serious segments, the tone shifts are not always consistent.

On the bright side, some scenes are quite well done. This includes a night out with Scott, Ray, and some fellow firefighters where his late dad’s angelic legacy is tarnished to his son’s delight. Every time romantic interest Kelsey (with a terrific performance by Powley) is around, it works. I actually found myself wishing Scott had more interest in her because she deserves more screen time.

Ultimately The King of Staten Island is vintage Apatow and that includes the glass being measured in both ways. Thankfully it is full for the most part.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: The King of Staten Island

The latest dramedy from director Judd Apatow is receiving a lot of similar praise and a bit of the same criticism as other titles in his filmography. The King of Staten Island hits the VOD circuit this Friday after foregoing a theatrical release due to COVID-19. The pic is a showcase for Saturday Night Live cast member Pete Davidson, who’s received as much press for his personal life as his SNL antics. This is a semi-autobiographical vehicle for him and reviews out today give high marks to his work.

Overall Island currently stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Several critics are calling it Apatow’s most mature work. There are kudos for the supporting cast that includes Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, and Bel Pawley. On the flip side, there are some complaints about its 136 minute runtime. This is a common gripe for the director’s efforts.

While Oscar attention is unlikely, the pic could garner the attention of Golden Globes voters since it splits acting races between Drama and Musical/Comedy. In the latter, Davidson could be a contender for Actor. Yet the Apatow track record at the Globes is shaky. Neither Steve Carell (The 40 Yr. Old Virgin) or Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) made the final five. I would especially say that Carell was robbed in 2005. On the other hand, 2015’s Trainwreck nabbed Amy Schumer an Actress mention.

Bottom line: some awards chatter for Apatow’s latest stand-up star could happen, but I don’t think it would be at the biggest show of all. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

White Boy Rick Box Office Prediction

After a debut at the Telluride Film Festival that garnered mixed reactions, White Boy Rick is out in theaters next weekend. Directed by Yann Demange, it tells the true crime story of 14-year-old Richard Wersche Jr. (Richie Merritt) who became a FBI informant and drug kingpin in Detroit in the 1980s. Matthew McConaughey plays his father with a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powley, Bryan Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, Bruce Dern, and Piper Laurie.

As mentioned, festival reaction wasn’t overwhelmingly positive and Rick currently stands at 63% on Rotten Tomatoes. Had the film managed to generate awards buzz, my estimate might be slightly higher than it is. I believe this could struggle to hit double digits out of the gate for a so-so debut.

White Boy Rick opening weekend prediction: $8.7 million

For my The Predator prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/the-predator-box-office-prediction/

For my A Simple Favor prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/05/a-simple-favor-box-office-prediction/

For my Unbroken: Path to Redemption prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/09/06/unbroken-path-to-redemption-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: White Boy Rick

Ahead of its stateside bow in just two weeks, White Boy Rick has premiered at the Telluride Film Festival. The 1980s set crime pic tells the true story of Richard Wershe Jr. (played by newcomer Richie Merritt), who became a drug kingpin and FBI informant at age 14 in Detroit. Matthew McConaughey plays his father with French director Yann Demange (maker of the acclaimed 2014 indie ‘71) behind the camera.

White Boy Rick was never exactly looked at as a major Oscar contender, but it was a curiosity as to whether its two main actors could receive attention. McConaughey is just five years removed from a gold statue for Dallas Buyers Club. While some early reviews have commended him and Merritt, there’s been an overall mixed to negative vibe from critics.

Bottom line: This should be a total non-factor when it comes to Academy Awards chatter.

The film opens September 14. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Mary Shelley

At the Toronto Film Festival last fall, Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour premiered Mary Shelley with the hope of generating some solid critical buzz. The period drama casts Elle Fanning in the title role of the English author who brought Frankenstein to life in 1818. Costars include Douglas Booth, Maisie Williams, Ben Hardy, Bel Powley, and Stephen Dillane.

The picture largely landed with a thud. Scheduled for limited release in domestic theaters this Friday, Shelley is currently at just 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ms. Fanning is certainly an up and comer who could get her share of awards worthy roles in the future.

However, Mary Shelley isn’t it. Once it screened up north, the reaction assured its Oscar chances aren’t alive.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…