Skip to main content

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Sometimes we go to school for our education. Other times life tosses learning opportunities right in our path and hopes we do more than stumble over them. But we all take turns as student and teacher, and ultimately we choose whether to learn from life’s lessons or to simply become the victim of them. There’s a lot to learn from The Peanut Butter Falcon, a surprising little film that Mark Twain might enjoy. Judging by the applause from the small audience we joined, this film works at a personal and emotional level. Or perhaps we just sat with a really good group of people late on a Sunday evening.
There are more than passing similarities to “Huckleberry Finn” at work here. This is a modern buddy story with an unlikely pairing of two outcasts on the lam, each with their own destination, a raft and a bond that strengthens along their journey.
Bruce Dern is showing up in movies a lot lately. He has settled into his old age nicely, playing edgy characters with wild gray hair in over twenty roles since the beginning of last year. Here he is Carl, the nursing home roommate to twenty-two year old Zak, an aspiring professional wrestler who happens to have Down syndrome. Identified as a flight risk by his caseworker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) following several botched escape attempts, he eventually succeeds with a little help from Carl.
Thus begins Zak’s quest to attend a wrestling school somewhere near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Professional wrestler and pitchman “The Saltwater Redneck,” played by Thomas Hayden Church, is Zak’s hero. Church is a familiar face from TV (Cheers, Wings), with a career going back to the late 1980s. His role in Sideways appears to be his segue into a film career that’s kept him busy since 2004.
Newcomer Zach Gottsagen becomes “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” an alter ego wrestler identity that evolves around a beach bonfire with the help of some moonshine and his new mentor Tyler (Shia LaBeouf.) Tyler’s struggle to support himself as a crab fisherman is hampered by his guilt over an auto accident that killed his beloved older brother. Although not directly resolved, Zak may be the surrogate brother he needs to begin healing that wound. Along the way, he teaches Zak to swim and shoot a gun, provides some frolicking training and saves his life while crossing a river. Redemption is complicated with their pursuit by two vengeful fishermen and Zak’s caseworker, all of whom eventual catch up with the two outlaws.
Shia LaBoeuf, best known for his Transformer series, Disturbia and early work for The Disney Channel’s Even Stevens (and some outrageous behavior around 2008) is at the top of his game in this film. At age 33, he’s got a long career ahead of him. As Tyler, he shows heart, vulnerability and strength. His is a hard-won cunning earned on the Carolina backwaters with a skiff and stolen crab pots. His innate wisdom reveals that there’s a lot more to this scruffy mongrel than meets the eye. He eventually helps Zak to fulfill his dream and wins the attention of Eleanor, who reluctantly joins them on their journey. She tackles her own disillusionment with a health care system that left Zak dumped by his family in a nursing home without rights, dignity or concern about what he wants from life.
Eventually, the initial adventure ends as a new one begins, and the three become a family of sorts, learning from each other as they head off together to Florida.
The cast, locations and music in The Peanut Butter Falcon are sweaty, salty and deeply Southern, reminiscent of DeliveranceSouthern Comfort or O Brother Where Art Thou. The topic of Down syndrome is handled frankly, at times in Zak’s own words, and at others with comeuppance for those who utter the word “retard.” Zak’s limitations are less a hindrance than a springboard to his unique effect on those who open their hearts to him. His honesty and genuineness are keys to expediting that process.
This is a very different feel good movie. Retaining the PG-13 rating despite some profanity will be important in reaching a wider audience. Parents should bring kids to see this one. It’s a good catalyst for continued conversation about potentially uncomfortable interactions with those who seem different. And rest assured we are all different, each in our own way.
The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) runs 1 hour, 33 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Should I see this movie? 

Popular posts from this blog

Tenet

A palindrome is a word or phrase that reads the same backward as forward. “Tenet” is a palindrome. There are entire scenes within this movie that are palindrome-ish. The movie is utterly confusing and exhausting to decipher for the entirety of its two and a half hours. It is also brilliantly written, if complexity gets credit, and the editor(s) of this beast should win an Oscar. I could tell you the entire plot and key scenes of this film without spoiling it. I love good time travel movies, but they are simple by comparison to this looping, parallel timeline action film in which John David Washington, known as “The Protagonist” and his strangely familiar partner Neil, played by Robert Pattinson, set out to save the world from something they don’t understand. Washington recently starred in BlacKkKlansman , which was a walk in the park compared to this very physical role as a CIA type who has been tested for inclusion in a secret organization that operates outside of time and national in

Dark Waters

Mark Ruffalo plays real life corporate attorney Rob Bilott in this true story about Dupont Chemicals Company’s atrocious poisoning of the farming community of Parkersburg, West Virginia over a period of decades. Through a series of unlikely connections, Bilott exposed and brought to account the largest chemical company of its day. Ruffalo also steps into the Producer role for this film, with co-star Anne Hathaway as Bilott’s wife Sarah. Tim Robbins plays Bilott’s reluctantly supportive boss Tom Terp, who becomes crucial to the eventual success of Bilott’s extensive research. The use of several actual characters from the community that were poisoned by Dupont’s blockbuster product called Teflon, lends the film additional credibility. One baby, born disfigured from the effects of “C-8” in the drinking water and on the production line where a number of pregnant women worked, appears as an adult late in the film. This is not a wild ride or even that exciting, but throughout the film you ho

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Those who may be mistakenly drawn to this film as fans of the magician David Copperfield will be disappointed. But as a huge Charles Dickens fan, it was a must see as soon as I heard it was released. It was also our first time venturing out to a theater since about February. I’m happy to report that the experience was safe and sanitary. Being virtually the only two people in the theater helped a lot. Contactless ticketing and concessions, masks, gloves, cleaning between features and social distancing were all in play. So, a brief note about the magician we’ve unfortunately all come to know better perhaps than this classic character from Dickens’ own favorite and most successful book. Magician David Seth Kotkin changed his name to the Charles Dickens character David Copperfield because he liked the sound of it. The book is magical, but that’s about all the two have in common. Dev Patel of  Slumdog Millionaire  plays David alongside several other memorable cast members. Not least of thes