In the film “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” Zack Gottsagen, in his film debut, portrays the character Zak; a young man, who has Down syndrome. He has no family to look after him, so therefore, as a ward of the state of North Carolina, he has been placed in an assisted living facility. Zak, understandably, dislikes where he is being forced to live, and is looking to break out of the place – literally. Zak’s immediate goal, upon escaping from the facility, is to meet up with his professional wrestling idol ‘The Salt Water Redneck,’ played in the film by Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church (Sideways). Zak has gained a confidence from watching the Salt Water Redneck’s wrestling videos and promos, upwards of ten times a day, according to his roommate and friend, Carl, played by two time Oscar nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska). Zak, not only wants to meet his wrestling hero, but take lessons from him, and truly begin to live his life. (As an aside: Former professional wrestlers Mick Foley and Jake ‘the snake’ Roberts, appear in the movie).
The film follows a pair of runaways, Zak, as previously mentioned, and Tyler, portrayed by BAFTA winner Shia LeBeouf (Honey Boy). LeBeouf, is seemingly, as of late, with this film and others, attempting to shed his turbulent personal past, and that’s a good thing; he’s a talented actor. The two men, might never have met, if not by a fluke: Zak sneaks onto Tyler’s boat, and isn’t discovered until Tyler, who is being chased by some men out to get him, hurriedly has to leave the dock area. Of course, with movies of this nature, Tyler at first tries to rid himself of Zak, but that doesn’t happen. Over the course of the film, the two men form a bond, as they both seek out a more prosperous future.
Zak, as previously mentioned, entertains the idea of becoming a professional wrestler. Tyler, wants to move to a quiet fishing village in Florida to begin his life again. Trouble, however, is never lurking far behind: Eleanor, played by Golden Globe winner Dakota Johnson (The Social Network), is in charge of Zak’s care at the assisted living facility, and is seeking to bring him back where she feels he belongs. Tyler, is being pursued for the crimes of stealing crab pots and setting fire to supplies belonging to Duncan, a fellow crabber and rival, played by Oscar nominee John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone). Aiding Duncan, in his pursuit of Tyler, is Ratboy (Yelawolf).
Critics of the film, might say that it is a bit on the predictable side, regarding what will happen to the respective characters, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. The film has a runtime of 97 minutes, so for me, it didn’t overstay its welcome. Focusing on the path to get to the end, as opposed to the resolution, is one of the aspects of the film that I enjoyed the most. The other was the acting. The three leads had terrific on-screen chemistry, and the connection between LeBeouf and Gottsagen, should especially keep viewers invested in the story.
Gottsagen, for me, as I am sure for many viewers, was the standout in the film, considering the journey he needed to go on, in order to even be in the movie. Once he got his opportunity, as evidenced by the performance he gave, he certainly made the most of it. As the story goes, Gottsagen was discovered by the filmmakers, when they went to shoot scenes at Zeno Mountain Farm, which is a year round organization that is funded entirely by donations and run by volunteer workers. Zeno Mountain Farm’s purpose is to host camps for people with or without disabilities. When Gottsagen met the creative team at the camp he was attending, he impressed them so much with his zeal of wanting to be in a film, even though he was told the odds where astronomically against him, that the screenwriter of the film decided to write the screenplay for “The Peanut Butter Falcon” with Gottsagen specifically in mind.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 9, 2019. The film marks the feature directorial debut for Tyler Nilson. The screenplay for the film was written by Michael Schwartz (The Moped Diaries). Co editors Nat Fuller (Stranger Things) and Oscar nominee Kevin Tent (The Descendants) did an excellent job editing the film, and keeping it moving at a good pace. Furthermore, the spot on cinematography by Nigel Bluck (True Detective) does a wonderful job of capturing the atmosphere of the outer banks. In addition, the soundtrack to the film, syncs up well with what is taking place on screen. Overall, for those of you looking for a gratifying and fun film, that should leave most viewers, after watching the movie, thinking that it was time well spent, “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” in my opinion, delivers.