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Film Review: Pete Davidson’s “The King of Staten Island” is the Movie of 2020

Nicholas Bonazoli

I laughed and I cried… a lot. Pete Davidson’s The King of Staten Island was probably one of the most influential movies I have ever seen. Looking back on Pete Davidson, you’ll probably think he is just a Saturday Night Live comedian with raunchy jokes and cameos in tons of film and television series. That is not how I saw one of my favorite comedians in this film. With a cast including the hilarious Bill Burr, Marissa Tomei, and Steve Bruscemi, you might think this may be a comedy film because the director of Knocked Up, Judd Apatow was at the helm of the movie. That is not the case for this film. The very beginning of The King of Staten Island starts with Pete Davidson attempting suicide on the freeway listening to Kid Cudi’s Just What I Am. The typical comedy film, right? Wrong! 

Pete Davidson plays a struggling 23-year-old aspiring tattoo artist named Scott Carlin who struggled with the loss of his father who lost his life in the line of duty in a hotel fire. Scott is a stoner who has a lot of stress and anxiety and lives with his mother, Margie (Marissa Tomei,) as she has to deal with her son’s goofy antics. In the film, Scott has to deal with Margie’s new boyfriend Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) who was a part of Scott’s father’s Ladder Company while he was killed. Scott becomes more stressed and thinks that it was weird for her to date another fireman just like his father. Then later on in this dark comedy, he is too afraid to tell his love interest, Kelsey, that he loves her and Scott has to discover what it is like to become a real fireman later on in the movie.

(Courtesy of Universal Pictures 2020) 

Pete Davidson dedicates this film to his father as he struggled to deal with his loss in the September 11 terrorist attacks. The actor has struggled without a father throughout his life and wanted to get his message across about his mental illness despite how he is portrayed by the media. I believe that this film was a quite honest film with Pete Davidson making a fictionalized version of himself and making the film inspired by his real-life experiences living in Staten Island. According to CBS’s Sunday Morning, the actor confirmed that 75 percent of the movie is based on his real-life experiences. I found this film to be true and honest about mental illness and it is okay to come out and tell people who need to know about it. I believe Pete was brave enough to release this film through video-on-demand during a pandemic to open-up about his real-life experiences through a dark comedy is so heroic since many struggling individuals say that they are “fine,” or“okay,” but never ask how they are doing and I believe that Pete Davidson had to open up his own story in a fictional way. I can see Pete Davidson and Judd Apatow getting a nomination for an Oscar for Original Best Screenplay since this is more like a diary of Pete’s life if he did not find the life of a stand-up comedian. 

I’ll be honest, this film is Pete Davidson’s version of 8 Mile. A weird comparison, but hear me out. If Eminem can open up about not making it out of Detroit, how did Pete Davidson make it out of Staten Island as one of the most popular comedians? Yeah, a weird comparison. I found this film to be extremely honest about mental illness and the struggles of young adulthood. I give this movie a 10/10 since it did a fine job explaining how young adults these days struggle with growing up and finding themselves. I did relate to this movie so much when I took my gap year as I also did attempt to find myself as much as Pete Davidson did in this film. So I say thank you, Pete, Judd, and Universal Studios for the greatest movie of 2020!