Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
Starring: Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes
Runtime: 98 minutes
Rating PG-13 (for thematic content, language throughout, some violence and smoking)
I hope the name of this film catches your eye. It caught mine. The Peanut Butter Falcon??? I had heard of this film in passing. It’s an INDIE film that has been picking up traction. I can understand why.We all know the story of Huckleberry Finn. A duo off for a better life. This is the case here as well. This time with a twist. What makes this film unique is its start Zach Gottsagen. Gottsagen is an actor and a young man with Down Syndrome. What makes this story even better is in reading about the film, he’s always wanted to be a movie star. The directors met him through an organization that helps disabled actors. He always wanted to star in a film, and now he’s done it. The premise is simple, like I stated, pursuing a better life. We’ve seen various iterations of this theme but how would this one play out?
Onto the film.
We start with Tyler (LaBeouf) he’s a fisherman but isn’t an honest one. He’s been stealing crabs from crab boxes and trying to sell them to make ends meet. Immediately Tyler is someone the audience likes. You can see the pain in his eyes and realize there’s more to his story than we immediately see. After taking his “haul” to the local buyer he is turned away because he doesn’t have a proper license.
We then meet our hero, Zak (Gottsagen) he lives in a retirement home for the elderly. Zak is a man with Down Syndrome. He doesn’t have a family and the State puts him in this home for constant care. His nurse Eleanor (Johnson) thinks fondly of him and tells him he’s now a flight risk for attempting to escape twice. His dream is simple. He wants out and he wants to become a professional wrestler. His hero is named the Saltwater Redneck (Hayden Church) He watches an instructional film on a wrestling school and is determined to enroll. With the help of his roommate Carl (played by Bruce Dern) Zak escapes. Through a series of events Zak and Tyler meet.
Tyler (LaBeouf) isn’t just down on his luck because he can’t sale his crabs. He’s also on the run. The fishermen he stole from, he also destroyed their traps. Aside from Tyler being hunted by Duncan (Hawkes) Zak is being hunted as well, by his nurse Eleanor (Johnson). Reluctantly, Tyler allows Zak to come with him and the Huckleberry Finn adventure begins.
This is where the movie shines. We learn that Zak has been stuck in the nursing home for two years. Immediately I thought of being in situations where you’re stuck and just spinning your wheels. Hoping for things to change, or a new direction to present itself. We also learn from Tyler that he has guilt because the loss of his brother Mark (played by The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal). These two situations are why/how the men bond. Sometimes in life when we are down we meet people to help us. We meet people to pick us up and sometimes it creates a bond that is unique. Life never gives us too much and even though these men both feel this way, together they can get through.
We see the duo, being shot at, building a raft, haggling on the cost of peanut butter, and one of them may or may not fall in love. It is an adventure after all. We also learn of the two rules Tyler has for Zak. Rule 1 – Don’t slow him down. Rule 2 – He is the boss. Immediately Zak is asked what rule one is. Zak’s response. “Party?” The humor is rapid in this film, and it’s not forced. I found myself smiling time and time again and even laughing out loud at some points.
This film works on many levels. Most importantly the cast all work so well together. You can sense a real bond between our duo, and even Eleanor (Johnson) flows well with both Zak and Tyler. Is she the love interest? Also, to be noted are the minor characters. As the journey unfolds, they meet a blind man who baptizes them, after shooting at them. Each scene has a character that really leaves a mark and from researching some of the actors were locals. (Nice touch)
I haven’t seen a truly “feel-good” film in a while. This is one of them. I didn’t expect to leave thinking this would be one of the best films of the year. It is. The cast shines, the dialogue shines. The soundtrack (bluegrass heavy) just works. We all hear of stories of triumph when things look bleak. We also hear of people pursing their dreams. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the human spirit and the fight for what you want. Go see this film. 5 stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL
Andrew McManus is Operations Manager for Patties & Pints and its parent company Eflow Development.He can be reached at [email protected] or 740-981-9158