Paul McGuire Grimes of Pauls Trip to the Movies gives us his thoughts on two new releases you can stream.
THE KING OF STATEN ISLAND (OnDemand rental)
Pete Davidson is best known for his work on Saturday Night Live or for maybe his infamous relationships. He’s front and center for the personal film The King of Staten Island. Early on in the film, Pete’s character Scott says “There’s something wrong with me. Mentally.” Scott’s the kind of guy who’s in his early ‘20s and still lives at home smoking pot in his basement with his friends. We learn that when Scott was young his dad tragically died in the line of duty as a firefighter. Since then, Scott can’t seem to get his act together and grow up. His mother, played by Marisa Tomei, starts dating again and her new boyfriend also happens be a firefighter. With his mother moving on, his sister moving off to college, Scott is forced to reconcile the choices he’s made in life if he’s going to be happy for others and start his own tattoo business.
-Starring: Pete Davidson, Marisa Tomei, Bill Burr, Steve Buscemi, and Maude Apatow.
-The King of Staten Island is the latest film from director Judd Apatow who co-wrote the screenplay with Davidson and Dave Sirus. Apatow has directed many funny films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and Trainwreck. Don’t expect that kind of uproarious laughter with The King of Staten Island. There are some cringe-worthy laughs, but the slice of life nature of The King of Staten Island takes more of a contemplative tone. It’s a sobering journey for Pete’s character, Scott.
-If you didn’t already know, the story is inspired by Pete Davidson’s own life. His father was a firefighter who died on 9/11 when Pete was a young kid. You can feel a cathartic release for Pete throughout the movie. Part of you just wants him to grow up and stop making excuses over and over again. You may find the first half of the movie a little grating if you feel this way. The film works better in the second half once Scott starts spending time with his mom’s new boyfriend at the firehouse. Spending time with these heroes and getting to know them on a personal level is that kick in the pants Scott needs to really understand the sacrifice and heroism these men and women go through on the line.
-Pete Davidson shows potential to step away from Saturday Night Live and work in films. Pete’s openness to put it all out there is an admirable quality to add to future characters. It should also come as no surprise that Marisa Tomei is just delightful as his mother. It’s a real treat to see her in this kind of role that allows her some nuances and heart.
-With The King of Staten Island, Judd Apatow continues to turn his comedies into meditations on life, sometimes funny and sometimes tragic. A reminder to hear other people’s stories as there are silent heroes among us that help put our own troubles in perspective.
THE LOVEBIRDS (Netflix)
HBO viewers probably know Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae best from their series Silicon Valley and Insecure, now they’re teaming up for The Lovebirds. The pair star as Jibran and Leilani who have been dating for four years. They’re at a certain stage of dating where they’re bickering all the time and unsure of what’s best for their relationship. That’s all tested when they find themselves in the middle of a hit and run and try to evade police thinking they will be thought of as the suspects.
-Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, Anna Camp and Paul Sparks
-The Lovebirds was supposed to hit theaters but when the pandemic closed all theaters, it was picked up by Netflix instead of going the OnDemand rental route. I can’t quite decide this film would play better at home or if a full movie theater audience would generate more laughs.
-Jibran and Leilani are certainly a relatable couple as I bet many long term couples have had a few petty fights about innocuous subjects like the ones we see from them. One such fight is whether they could actually compete and win on The Amazing Race. The film then takes them on an Amazing Race-like adventure where they find themselves in a rat race of their own with nefarious criminals and are forced to work together to get out of this jam they’re in.
-Every year we get action comedies like this where the leads are in far over their head stuck in compromising positions. We even saw Kumail Nanjiani in a movie like this last year called Stuber. At least The Lovebirds is more of a rom-com than a buddy/cop flick. There is a lot of silly humor along the way. Some of it is a bit ridiculous including the bacon grease versus horse kick that you’ve seen in the trailers. Other times its clever and will generate some good laughs.
-I think that the funniest moments come when director Michael Showalter seems to let Kumail and Issa riff utilizing their own comedic sensibilities. They have fantastic chemistry together and it’s their banter and how they play off each other that saves the movie from its formulaic nature.
-I want to applaud the fact we have a big rom-com/action comedy with two people of color as the leads.
-The Lovebirds is only 87 minutes and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s just long enough to enjoy these characters before their bickering becomes too much to handle. And I will give kudos to any movie that references Eyes Wide Shut.