The Peanut Butter Falcon became a sleeper hit at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival (which won the Spotlight Audience Award) showcases the talents of two forthcoming filmmakers and an actor with Down syndrome. Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz met Zack Gottsagen at an acting camp for adults with disabilities in Venice, California. Gottsagen, who has been acting since he was a kid, impressed the two with his skills. As a result, the two homeless filmmakers promised to pen a screenplay for him. They got no other actor than Josh Brolin to help them start the project. Eventually, the two would get a great cast to star in this feel-good dramedy reminiscent to Mud.
Zak (Gottsagen) has been living in a nursing home in North Carolina for two years, under the care of Eleanor (Dakota Johnson). He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler like his idol The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church, the role Brolin was originally set to play before declining to play Cable in Deadpool 2), whom he obsessively watches a video tape of every day. After several failed attempts, he gets a little help from his friend Carl (Bruce Dern) to successfully escape the facility in the middle of the night.
Along the way, Zak meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), an outlaw spending most of his time fishing in the marshes and stealing crabs from traps. The two eventually become good friends. Once Eleanor catches up to them, she must make a moral choice of taking Zak back or let him pursue his dreams.
There have been plenty of movies in recent years with great messages about following one’s dreams. However, there have been few movies that with so much authenticity. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a prime example of that and more. LaBeouf and Johnson have never been better. The audience learns about where they came from. Without giving anything away, their backstories bring enough emotional layers. LaBeouf’s Tyler is reluctant of tagging along with Zak, but becomes more respectful and understanding as the movie progresses. In one scene, Tyler explains to Eleanor about Zak’s freedom, and he could never be looked down as being a disabled person. The movie would never be complete without Gottsagen’s childlike innocence, charisma, and wit. Church is certainly having a blast here.
With gorgeous cinematography by Nigel Buck, terrific performances, and a wonderful message, I guarantee this Mark Twain-inspired film will have everyone smiling long after the credits roll. A future cult classic, for sure!