Summary: As the rest of the world moves on, a Staten Island native comes to terms with his father’s death.
Really wanted some sort of “bow down!” kind of phrase, but I didn’t love this movie so here we are. The King of Staten Island is very good. Like, surprisingly good. Like, this movie is 2 hours and 17 minutes and I got the feeling it was too long only once and it was truly fleeting. Maybe it’s because I finally had a good representation of my hometown, maybe it’s because Pete Davidson and Bill Burr have a really authentic dynamic.
The movie is loosely based on Davidson’s life and struggle to accept the loss of his father, a firefighter for New York City who died saving someone else’s life. For being mostly known as a comedian, Davidson does a fine job here and knowing that it is semi-autobiographical certainly helped me connect with his grief, trauma, and reactions. The flips between drama and comedy are really well done. Specifically with the comedy, the movie is able to perfectly capture the discomfort of cringe-laughter in many moments. Davidson won’t get any nominations- but if this were Timothee Chalamet, he’d probably have a few; it’s a longshot, but I’m hoping Burr gets recognized a bit.
Staten Island is… a weird place. There’s a good amount of orange Jersey Shore-like types, but there are plenty of people who are nothing like that, though they are still easily identifiable as Staten Islanders. A lot of people tend to just stay there after high school or college, although there are a good number who “get out,” and they all congratulate each other for doing so (I am one of those). It also has a mix of white collar workers and very blue collar workers, who think they are white collar because they own a house in a more suburban area with a backyard. There definitely is a big emphasis on family throughout, as well as a huge sense of either pride or disdain for living there. No matter the demographic, there’s a strong sense of community in each neighborhood, and a lot of loyalty and respect for service people, specifically for police officers and firefighters and especially in the days after 9/11. The King of Staten Island really seeps with this sentiment and that’s where a lot of the beauty and authenticity of this movie lays.
I’ve always been reluctant to 100% trash Staten Island because, well… I have pretty fond memories of the place and I like to think I turned out ok. It’s always bothered me that it was the literal dumping ground for the rest of New York City, because it’s really not that bad and King is able to focus in on the small things that make it great- Denino’s, a sense of community with friends and families that go way back, the Staten Island bubble within the New York City bubble, the selflessness and camaraderie of a firehouse, a very odd pride in the minor league baseball team, the chaos and calm of the ferry. It’s not all Jersey Shore over there. It might not feel this way to a non-Islander, but this movie was so full of bringing those small things to the forefront. It felt like home.