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The King of Staten Island Movie Review

Judd Apatow began his career as a director with TV's The Larry Sanders Show and the cult favorite Freaks and Geeks, but broke big in the movie world with raucous comedies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up." Lately the filmmaker has moved towards directing more personal stories and his latest, "The King of Staten Island," follows this latest trend. Apatow, who co-wrote the film's screenplay with Saturday Night Live performer Pete Davidson and Dave Sirus, employs a balance of raunchy and sweet to tell this story about a guy from Staten Island.
"The King of Staten Island" is loosely based on Davidson's life. As a standup comedian, Davidson has never shied away from telling personal stories about his life and finding humor in the painful moments of his past. His father, Scott Davidson, was a firefighter who tragically died on September 11, 2001.

In "The King of Staten Island," Davidson plays Scott, a 24-year-old who lives at home with his mother Margie (Marisa Tomei), a widow of 17 years, after his father passed away in the line of duty as a firefighter. Life continues moving all around Scott but he stands still and seems perfectly content in doing so. He hangs out with his friends, sleeps with his not-quite-girlfriend Kelsey (Bel Powley) and practices his passion, giving people tattoos. His younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is off to college, leaving Scott and Margie alone to navigate the next chapter of their lives. Margie begins dating Ray (Bill Burr), who clashes with Scott.

Apatow's previous feature was "Trainwreck," which was written by and starred Amy Schumer. That movie, like "The King of Staten Island," wasn't entirely autobiographical but based upon instances from the comedienne's life. "Trainwreck," while solid, didn't have the personal and occasionally melancholic touch that Davidson's story has here. Scott appears content, but often acknowledges that he doesn't have his "shit together" and struggles with mental health issues (something Davidson has been very open about). "The King of Staten Island" captures a sense of longing, missing, and wanting more, which makes Scott - and Davidson - an empathetic character.

As a first true star vehicle, Davidson paves his way to movie stardom with his performance. Earlier this year he starred in "Big Time Adolescence," which presented him as a similar pot-smoking character who spends his days hanging with his friends. In telling his story with "The King of Staten Island," Davidson doesn't seem to be slipping into typecast, though it would be easy to write him off as what he continuously appears to be on screen. Teaming with Apatow just feels like the launching pad to Davidson conquering Hollywood.

From the Apatow perspective, "The King of Staten Island" falters in the same areas that areas most of the director's movies do. It's far too long - two hours and 16 minutes - and there are points where the story completely derails and subplots are introduced for comedy's sake but add nothing to the story. These distracting moments thankfully don't overshadow the focus of the story; but merely from a technical perspective, the film could have been a bit tighter.

Repeated flaws and all, Apatow's trajectory shows a continued maturation as a director. He has allowed his movies to be about other people, and given comedians a new chance to exercise their many talents. Comedy is often best when it's personal, and you feel that throughout "The King of Staten Island."
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