BUZZFEED: It’s a shame that the name “Pete Davidson” is now synonymous with the name “Ariana Grande.” I can’t imagine dating someone in my mid-twenties for a few intense, absurd months, and then having that relationship die like a star burning through its own fuel supply, only after it’s come to define a significant portion of my public persona. Davidson became one of the most overexposed celebrities of 2018, the face of Big Dick Energy and the boyfriend of a few other famous women. But the tabloid coverage from those relationships clearly got to Davidson, despite the fact that he’s plenty talented in his own right.
Though he has continued appearing on Saturday Night Live and released a Netflix stand-up special in February, he has avoided social media almost entirely and has refused most press interview requests (through representatives of his movie, he declined to speak with BuzzFeed News). And in 2019, he moved back to Staten Island, where he grew up, to live in the basement of a house he bought with his mother.
But on Friday, he’s releasing his biggest project yet: The King of Staten Island, a comedy-drama directed by Judd Apatow and written by Davidson, Apatow, and Davidson’s best friend, Dave Sirus, and available on demand. The movie marks Davidson’s first starring role in a feature film and is demonstrably semiautobiographical. Davidson plays the lovable but frustrating Scott, a man in his mid-twenties, stuck in arrested development after his firefighter father dies while saving someone on the job. He aspires to be a tattoo artist, but like his friend says, his work is “mad inconsistent.” He’s sweet and easy to root for, but he’s an idiot. When he attempts to tattoo a 12-year-old he runs into on the beach, he ends up setting up his widowed mother/roommate (played by an upsettingly hot Marisa Tomei in a very Long Island mullet) with yet another firefighter (Bill Burr). The King of Staten Island isn’t Davidson’s first attempt to become something more than a famous boyfriend, but it is his best work thus far.
At just 26, Davidson has lived more than a few lifetimes. He’s been the son of a hero, a celebrity accessory, an asshole, and a self-described crazy person. Yet he still manages to be appealing, charming, and lovable, even if it’s not always clear why. With The King of Staten Island, Davidson finally has the room and the self-awareness to present a fuller version of himself. It’s too simple to paint him as nothing more than a traumatized son who is still grappling with the loss of his father, or to suggest he’s just another white-guy comedian who doesn’t know where and when to punch. In Staten Island, he shows that he’s both and a whole lot more. MORE