If you believe the saying, it takes a whole village to raise a child. Perhaps because it is a man-child in this specific case, it is rather several women that the protagonist needs. The King of Staten Island to move into adulthood. His name is Scott, in his mid-twenties, and spends most of his time smoking pot and improperly tattooing his friends. Between a sister “to let off steam” whose main fault apparently is to go to college, a girlfriend whom he insists on keeping secret and, above all, a widowed mother who must especially not succumb to the advances of a nice divorced because son likes things as they are, Scott is indeed a little king. Strange, however, as this new comedy by Judd Apatow seems to confuse ” cute “And” toxic “.
Adolescent characters have always been the bread and butter of the director, screenwriter and above all producer (Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, This is 40). The one at the heart of The King of Staten Island looks for itself like its predecessors, but is above all driven by a quest for the father. Scott lost his firefighter who died on duty at the age of seven. A drama that the partly autobiographical script co-authored by Pete Davidson (who plays the title role with undeniable sensitivity) exploits more than he explores.
In that with each infectious behavior of Scott towards his sister, Claire (Maude Apatow, underwritten score), his girlfriend, Kelsey (Bel Powley, funny but forcing the accent of the vintage), or his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei, the comic-dramatic brio embodied), quickly, quickly, there is a painful reminder, in the look or in the text, of the tragedy (ah, and there is also this ADHD, who has a broad back ). The process quickly becomes a pleasant narrative (and psychological) shortcut. Even when they have had enough, the three women never stay angry for very long.
Not that their infinite patience interests the writers (Apatow, Davidson and Dave Sirus), who seem to take it for granted. In fact, Claire is as fatherless as Scott in this case, but the fact that she was a baby at the time seems to invalidate any notion of repercussions, or even mourning, to believe the logic of a story that flatters the narcissism of its hero. To use the resigned expression of Agnès Jaoui in fed up with A family resemblance : “Girls, it’s not rated the same. “
Apatow’s treatment of female characters has not been surprising yesterday. In 2007, when a controversy surrounded Knocked up, the latter admitted to Vulture : “If people say that the characters are sexist, I say, yeah, it is wanted in the first part, and then they change. In 2020, the recipe hasn’t changed, but it has aged.
The most beautiful, or finally the saddest, is that Scott’s evolution ultimately passes through the father’s former colleagues, and not by the three women who support him (and endure him), and who are cavalierly relegated to the narrative periphery past the mitan.
From the “awake” comment to three sous that all this? Perhaps. Either way, the irritants of the script go beyond these considerations. Enhanced by very good performances, the film does not have the less, for example, the heavy hand as much in the fat laughs as in the pathos. In many ways, a female version of a similar tale, Trainwreck, with Amy Schumer, based on her own script, showed a more inspired Judd Apatow in dosing.
Technically however, The King of Staten Island is his most accomplished. This, very much thanks to the contribution of the ace director Robert Elswit (Magnolia, There will be blood). The result of this collaboration is a realistic and raw urban style far removed from the often dapper colors of Apatow’s comedies.
On the other hand, and like most of the films of the comedy tycoon, at more than ten past two, The King of Staten Island lasts a good half hour too long. So that like the female characters, but not for the same reasons, one cannot help but say at the end: “it was time”.