A lifetime ago; i.e., before the pandemic hit, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON was slated to come to our movie screens in Hong Kong. The rest is history but now that our cinemas have reopened, the film is finally arriving this week. I reviewed the film back in November but it’s worth reposting now because you might want to see it.
Who knew that Shia LaBeouf (THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN) could act? The star of three big-budget TRANSFORMERS films and the least well received INDIANA JONES film (though it should be noted that the latter film still managed to take in over US$780 million at the box office), has had a roller coaster of a time in his 21-year movie career. Many of his critics – me included – may just have to reassess their opinion of him after THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON.
A modern-day Huck Finn adventure, THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON tells the unlikely friendship between Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome who has dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, and Tyler (LaBeouf), a troubled man who is on the run from a couple of crab catchers in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The two meet up after Zak runs away from the nursing home where he lives and hides out in Tyler’s fishing boat. After Tyler torches his rivals’ crabbing equipment, he takes off down the cays headed for Florida where he hopes he can start life afresh. Zak, meanwhile, wants to go the wrestling school run by his idol, The Salt-Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church, DADDY’S HOME; SIDEWAYS), which is in the same direction. Their journey together, on land and water, is full of adventure as the pair is chased by both the crabbers and Eleanor (Dakota Johnson, BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE; SUSPIRIA; the FIFTY SHADES trilogy), the social worker at Zak’s home who needs to bring him back safe. Along the way, they learn a lot about each other and what they’re capable of when they start to believe in themselves.
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, who make their feature debut here. The pair met Gottsagen a few years earlier at acting class he attended and they knew they had to write a film around him. It’s refreshing to see a film where the lead actor has a real disorder and is not acting like he has one. Gottsagen is so good here that it’s not long before we, like Tyler, start to see Zak’s abilities rather than his disabilities. As for LaBeouf, he gives what may be his most honest performance to date and his scenes with Gottsagen are rich with heart. Bruce Dern (THE HATEFUL EIGHT; NEBRASKA) makes a brief appearance as Zak’s highly resourceful roommate, Carl. At 83, Dern is showing no signs of slowing down. He has six films and two video games currently in production.
The film premiered a year ago March at the SXSW Film Festival where it took home the Audience Award in the Narrative Spotlight section. It has since gone on to win 20 other awards at smaller festivals around the world. The film had started to make its way around the world until Covid-19 and social distancing put those plans on hold. Fortunately, it’s available on Amazon Prime and some VOD platforms if your cinemas are still closed.
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is a wonderful story that will absolutely put a smile on your face and make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside… and couldn’t you use some of that right now? If you have a chance to see it wherever you are, make sure you do!
No Facebook Live reviews this week as I’ve got something else happening on Friday. Be sure to watch next week though!
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