Embracing Life



The Peanut Butter Falcon
Stars: Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal and Thomas Haden Church
Director: Tyler Nilson
Scriptwriters: Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
Composer: Zachary Davies, Noam Pikelny, Jonathan Sadoff and Gabe Witcher
Cinematographer: Nigel BluckRoadside AttractionsRating: PG 13
Running Length: 98 Minutes

The Special Olympics provides us with an opportunity to support special needs competitors in various sports.  In “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” Zak (Zack Gottsagen) a Down syndrome young man, wants to become a wrestler and we go with him on his difficult road to achieve his goal.  Along the way, are Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) and Clint “The Salt Water Redneck” (Thomas Haden Church.) The script by Tyler Nilson (also the director) and Michael Schwartz is insightful and takes us on a boat trip on a river like “Tom Sawyer.”  Follow your dream and be the best person you can bE. 

The story begins with Zak living in a nursing facility.  He has no family and the authorities have placed him there. Zak wants to become a wrestler and his idol is the “Salt Water Redneck.” Zak has a tape of “Redneck” and plays it frequently. Zak, has one friend at the facility, Carl (Bruce Dern), but keeps running away from the facility and is always brought back.  A friend there is Eleanor, a nurse, who keeps a watchful eye on him.  At this same time, we meet Tyler, a drifter who keeps getting into trouble and now has stolen fish traps with the bad guys right behind him.  Zak escapes again and hides in a boat--- Tyler is also on the same boat---and Eleanor is trying to find Zak. The chase is on.  By the way, this movie was filmed in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Zac’s trip has several adventures including discovering that Zak can’t swim, and Zak telling of his dream of becoming a wrestler.  When Zac and Tyler meet the Salt Water Redneck, it is quite a revelation.  What to do? 

Zack Gottsagen is a natural actor and when he is with Shia LaBeouf, it is like old friends. They play off each other well with body language and dialogue. Having Down’s syndrome does not get in Zack’s way.  Dakota Johnson fits into the picture, too, with compassion. The bad guys, Duncan (John Hawkes) and Ratboy (Yetawolf) do their badness just fine.  Bruce Dern isn’t there long enough, but he is good. The cast looks as though they enjoyed doing this film. 

“The Peanut Butter Falcon” turns out to be the wrestling name Zak thought of having as a wrestler.  He started with “The Falcon,” and added “Peanut Butter” later.  The easy-going spirit of the film catches you right away with Zak’s various escapes and Tyler’s bad-boy attitude that hides a person trying to heal.  Two people from opposite ends of the spectrum and they find common ground for friendship. That’s what it is all about.  People need people.  Enjoy.


Copyright 2019 Marie Asner