The King of Staten Island Review

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The King of Staten Island: A Reflection on Regrettable Behavior

The King of Staten Island is a smart, funny, and well-acted comedy that delves into the complexities of regrettable behavior. This article will explore the film’s powerful ending, where a single still shot recontextualizes everything we’ve seen. We’ll explore how Pete Davidson, who stars as the protagonist, brings a unique depth to the character and provides a meta-narrative of personal growth and introspection. Additionally, we’ll discuss the film’s setting in Staten Island and how it plays a crucial role in the story, capturing the dichotomy of the borough and its influence on the characters’ lives.

A Powerful Ending that Resonates

The King of Staten Island concludes with a poignant image: a real picture of a young Pete Davidson in the arms of his father, Steve, who was a firefighter. Steve’s heroic acts on September 11, 2001, add weight to this autobiographical film. Pete Davidson’s character, Scott, displays petulant behavior throughout the movie, but this final shot redefines our understanding of him. It transforms him from a typical Apatow man-child to a multi-dimensional character grappling with regret and personal growth. Pete Davidson’s performance, combined with the choice to include this photo, provides a powerful and moving conclusion to the film.

The Staten Island Dichotomy

Staten Island serves as more than just a backdrop for the film; it becomes a character in itself. The movie beautifully captures the dichotomy of the borough, highlighting its struggles, limitations, and unique sense of community. The protagonist, Scott, lives with his mother in Staten Island and is stuck in a state of arrested development. His interactions with various characters, especially during a party scene, showcase the divide between social classes and the intricate social dynamics within the island. This level of detail adds credibility and authenticity to the film, portraying Staten Island as a distinct and fascinating universe.

Strong Performances and Depth of Characters

The King of Staten Island features outstanding performances by its cast members. Marisa Tomei masterfully portrays Scott’s mother, conveying both warmth and frustration towards her son. Her line readings, delivered with a no-nonsense approach, encapsulate the Staten Island spirit. Bill Burr, known primarily for his stand-up work, excels in his role as a firefighter and love interest to Scott’s mother. His portrayal showcases a fundamental decency that acts as a perfect foil to Pete Davidson’s character. Together, they create a believable and emotionally resonant dynamic.

Pete Davidson’s autobiographical role in the film is a testament to his acting ability. While accused of playing himself in other projects, Davidson proves his versatility and effectiveness in capturing the essence of his own experiences. His performance balances humor, nervous energy, and self-deprecation, ultimately leading to a gradual character arc that feels authentic and touching. Davidson’s portrayal allows audiences to connect with the character on a deeper level, emphasizing personal growth and introspection.

The Apatow Signature and Supporting Performances

Judd Apatow, known for his exploration of characters in arrested development, brings his signature style to The King of Staten Island. The film, like many of Apatow’s works, runs a bit long and meanders into a hangout vibe. However, this approach allows for funny moments and talented comedic performers to shine. Bel Powley, playing Scott’s friend-with-benefits, injects bursts of energy and dreams for the future of Staten Island. Her performance stands out, leaving viewers wishing for a spinoff that further explores her character’s journey. Pamela Adlon brings lived-in wit to her role as Bill Burr’s ex-wife, adding depth to what could have been a thankless role.

An Unconventional Release in a Changing Landscape

The King of Staten Island was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it an at-home viewing experience for many. While it still manages to be funny, one can’t help but wonder how it would have resonated with a communal audience in theaters. The shared laughter and collective experience might have enhanced the comedic elements and made certain jokes land even harder. Nonetheless, the film crafted by Apatow and Davidson succeeds in being both funny and surprisingly touching, leaving a lasting impact on viewers.


The King of Staten Island is a comedy that combines humor with introspection. Pete Davidson’s authentic portrayal of his own experiences and the film’s exploration of regret and personal growth create a compelling narrative. Staten Island serves as a backdrop that adds depth and authenticity, capturing the unique essence of the borough. With a talented supporting cast and Judd Apatow’s directorial style, the film manages to balance comedy and emotion, leaving a lasting impression on audiences.


1. Is The King of Staten Island based on a true story?

No, while the film incorporates elements of Pete Davidson’s life, it is not a true story. It is a fictional narrative that draws inspiration from Davidson’s own experiences and emotions.

2. How does Pete Davidson’s personal life influence the film?

Pete Davidson’s personal life serves as a foundation for his portrayal of the character Scott. His experiences, emotions, and reflections on his own behavior contribute to the authenticity and depth of the performance.

3. What makes The King of Staten Island unique compared to other comedies?

The King of Staten Island stands out for its blend of humor and introspection. It tackles heavier themes while incorporating comedic elements, offering audiences a balanced and thought-provoking viewing experience.

4. How does the setting of Staten Island impact the film?

Staten Island plays a significant role in the film, acting as a unique backdrop that shapes the characters and their interactions. The portrayal of Staten Island captures its distinct atmosphere, struggles, and sense of community.

5. What was the significance of including a real photo at the end of the film?

The inclusion of a real photo at the end of the film, depicting Pete Davidson and his father, adds emotional weight and personal significance to the story. It recontextualizes the character’s behavior and serves as a reminder of the impact of loss and regret.