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One thing I’ve missed this year, during shut ins and shut downs, is watching movies. My local Regal theater closed its doors last March, as did the little indie movie house.
Typically I write 30+ movie reviews a year and share them on the blog. This year? My film reviews number five and the year is far gone. (Read my last review on Emma.)
Netflix and Amazon Prime offer a variety of newer and older releases. And yet, I’ve watched very few films. My disappointment with the theater closures transferred to watching movies anywhere it seems.
It’s time to remedy that!
This week I created a list of films I’m interested in reviewing. First up, the sweet comedy drama The Peanut Butter Falcon.
The Peanut Butter Falcon Cast
Newcomer Zack Gottsagen headlines this film. Other cast members include Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, Thomas Haden Church, John Hawkes, Yelawolf and Bruce Dern. Pro wrestlers Jake Roberts and Mick Foley make appearances as well.
Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz wrote the screenplay for The Peanut Butter Falcon and directed the film. The movie carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes, language, mild violence and the depiction of smoking, and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes.
The Peanut Butter Falcon received 21 awards from a variety of indie and film organizations, including the Seal of Authentic Representation for the casting of Zack Gottsagen in the authentic representation of a person with a disability.
Zak (Gottsagen) is a pleasant and sincere young man with Down Syndrome. Abandoned by his family, he resides in a senior care facility because he has no where else to go.
Passionate about professional wrestling, Zak and his elderly roommate Carl (Dern) watch the same VHS tape multiple times a day. It features colorful pro wrestler Salt Water Redneck (Church), who ends his video with an enthusiastic invitation to join him at his wrestling school in Ayden, North Carolina.
More than anything in the world, Zak wants to attend that wrestling school and become a pro wrestler like Salt Water Redneck. His failed escape attempts earn him a “flight risk” status and the watchful attention of his favorite caregiver, Eleanor (Johnson).
However, when you deeply desire something, you don’t give up.
Carl helps Zak escape one night, through the bent bars of their window. Wearing only his whitey tighties, Zak experiences exhilarating freedom as he flees.
Zak discovers an old fishing boat moored on a river estuary and seeks shelter for the night beneath a tarp.
The boat belongs to Tyler (LaBeouf), another young man on the run for different reasons. Alone as well, after the death of his older brother, Tyler struggles to play by the rules. He resorts to poaching crab pots until the owner, Duncan (Hawkes), and his sidekick Ratboy (Yelawolf), threaten him. When Tyler responds with the destruction of Duncan’s fishing equipment, he’s forced to flee in the old fishing boat that Zak innocently sleeps in.
Although he’s sympathetic toward Zak, Tyler has no intention of helping him. However, a kinship grows between the two. The poacher on the run becomes Zak’s unlikely training coach, traveling companion and ultimately his friend.
Tyler sees Zak as someone who can accomplish his dream. And Zak responds to that belief by trying new experiences and going beyond his comfort zone. When Tyler suggests that Zak create his own wrestler name, he comes up with the Peanut Butter Falcon.
Never Give Up
In a Mark Twain like twist, Zak and Tyler construct a raft and travel by river toward the wrestling school. They are joined on their journey by Eleanor, who is searching for Zak to return him to the senior facility.
Tyler helps Eleanor see Zak differently. Her concern for the young man causes her to coddle him and view him as not capable of caring for himself. Zak shows her just how capable he is.
Initially Eleanor accompanies the pair of adventurers to keep an eye on Zak. As her fear lessens, she continues with them to see Zak’s dream of reaching the wrestling school realized.
When the trio finally arrives in Ayden, they discover that circumstances have changed for Salt Water Redneck. The VHS tape is at least ten years old and the school no longer exists.
But dreams nurtured and carried for that long do not easily wither and die. And the spirit of the dream carrier is as strong as his determination to wrestle. There comes a time when one must stop running away from things and instead, run toward what’s most wanted.
Will the Peanut Butter Falcon earn his chance to appear in the ring?
My Thoughts on The Peanut Butter Falcon
This is a beautifully presented film, for many reasons. The cinematography captures the feel of the deep south, with most of the action taking place along marshy rivers.
The relationship between Tyler, Zak and Eleanor seems like an extension of the friendship that developed between the actors. Their bond perfectly exemplifies Carl’s sentiment, at the beginning of the film, that “friends are the family you choose”.
The heart of this enchanting movie, however, is Zack Gottsagen and his outstanding performance.
This movie came about because the directors met Zack at a camp, where he expressed his desire to be in a movie. They wrote the script around him, turning Zack’s dreams into a reality while creating a similar journey for the character he played.
Zack Gottsagen stands squarely on his own talents as an actor, giving a sincere and thought provoking performance that made me laugh out loud and sniffle through tears. He moved me and I look forward to seeing him in future films.
Watch The Peanut Butter Falcon
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