The Peanut Butter Falcon
You will embrace this magnificent, heartwarming film from beginning to end.
The Peanut Butter Falcon, directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, tells the story of a teenage boy with down syndrome who escapes from a residential nursing home to pursue a career as a professional wrestler. He immediately hooks up with a lonely fisherman who is wanted for stealing clams from pots owned by others that was followed by setting fire to all of their remaining pots stored on a dock.
While there are a number of wonderful actors in this engaging film, Zak Gottsagen gives a remarkable performance in his role as Zak, a kid who clearly recognizes and understands his down syndrome condition. Hollywood should follow its lead where it awarded the six-year-old Shirley Temple with a special Oscar in 1934 by giving Mr. Gottsagen the same award this year.
Zak escapes the institution with the help of an aging resident by the name of Carl, played by Bruce Dern in a role that replicates his contribution in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It is funny beyond words to watch Zak escape through a barred window pried open by Carl as he is forced to wear nothing but underwear on his pudgy body. His goal is to find his wrestling idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), so that he can be trained to follow in his hero’s footsteps.
This remarkable film constantly captures your attention with unexpected developments. To begin with, Shia LaBeouf, here playing the outlaw known as Tyler, has never given a better performance. Discovering Zak hiding in his boat as he tries to escape his armed pursuers, the two of them proceed to develop a friendship seldom seen in any film. Teaching Zak how to swim along with using a handshake that only cool guys employ, LaBeouf shines at every turn.
While the talented John Hawkes, who many of you will remember from his role in the memorable Deadwood TV series, captures your attention as an angry fisherman who seeks to get even with LaBeouf’s Tyler, Dakota Johnson gives a performance that continues to establish her role as a major Hollywood actress. Here she plays Eleanor, a widow working at the residential treatment center who is assigned to find Zak and return him to the facility. To Ms. Johnson’s credit, she continues to help all of us forget her role in the lamentable 50 Shades of Grey films while having the courage to branch out with artistically edgy performances as seen in both Suspiria and Bad Times at the El Royale, both released last year.
What defines the strength of this movie is that it focuses on the importance of family. All three of our lead characters are alone while suffering from an emotional isolation that leaves them seeking to find redemption. In the process a family is formed that none of them expected.
This film defines my passion for the movies. Walking into the theater feeling like an emotionally-spent criminal defense lawyer, I leave with a smile on my face.