The Peanut Butter Falcon is now playing in theaters and stars Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church, John Hawkes, Yelawolf, Mick Foley and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. The film is written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz.
After running away from a residential nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, a man who has Down syndrome befriends an outlaw who becomes his coach and ally.
The Peanut Butter Falcon isn’t just the most inspiring and feel-good movie of 2019 – it’s the best film of the year so far overall and one that should be nominated as such come Oscar season. Shia LaBeouf is in the midst of a long overdue comeback and delivers his greatest performance to date, while breakout star Zack Gottsagen proves that performers with Down syndrome can headline a film and do a damn good job at it. If there’s any justice in this world, Gottsagen would get a leading Oscar nod with Shia receiving one in the supporting performance category. These two have more than just some typical onscreen chemistry, because I could feel their bond emanating from the screen in a way that didn’t even feel like I was watching a movie anymore. LaBeouf and Gottsagen may have just set the new standard for the entire genre of brothers on the run.
Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz have created a film so perfect in every way that it feels out of place in 2019. The Peanut Butter Falcon belongs in the same echelon of cinema classics like The Shawshank Redemption or Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. The film is perfectly paced, exciting and features the most real and genuine character building and exploration that I’ve seen in years. If it weren’t for the two F-Bombs that Shia’s character drops in the film, I’d recommend that this movie be mandatory viewing in highschools across the country. The Peanut Butter Falcon is that good – a new classic of American Cinema and a film that will be studied and loved for decades to come.
The film opens with Zak (Gottsagen) plotting his escape from a nursing home with hilarious results and we soon come to find that this young man with Down syndrome is legit depressed that he’s been stuck in this place and surrounded by the elderly, with whom he doesn’t have anything in common with. His roommate played by Bruce Dern understands his friend’s struggle and even though he complains when Zak puts in the same pro wrestling tape again and again, he sympathizes with his dilemma and tries to help him get the hell out of there. When he eventually succeeds, he stumbles into Tyler (LaBeouf) who just so happens to be on the run from some nasty river thugs played perfectly by John Hawkes and Yelawolf (Major bonus points on getting Yelawolf to be in this – I’m a huge fan of his music and he killed it here). The duo of Zak and Tyler end up bonding while evading their respective pursuers and deliver one of the most genuine and moving onscreen bonds in the history of cinema. (Side note – After watching several cast interviews, it’s no surprise that these two will be life-long friends in real life as well).
The Peanut Butter Falcon isn’t just a gimmick either and if you think that casting a person with Down syndrome goes under that label, then you REALLY need to see this flick so you can start to understand that those with disabilities such as this, are no different than anyone else. Zak is constantly belittled and called “retard” at several moments in the film and each time it comes out – the word truly hurts. But it’s the moment on the boat between Tyler and Zak’s pursuer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) where you really start to understand the situation. Eleanor is talking down to Zak like he’s a child, never calling him names, but the tone in her voice and the way she lectures Zak bothers Tyler, who after getting Zak to leave for a second – tells Eleanor to stop calling him retarded. She’s shocked by his response but soon realizes what Tyler means and in that moment, I began to understand as well.
I haven’t cried in a theater since The Lion King and in 1994 I was only 9 years old. While watching The Peanut Butter Falcon, I cried like a baby – on at least three different occasions. The film challenges your emotions in ways that is very unexpected and you’ll find yourself trying not to ball your eyes out during both the sad and happy moments. This is not only a credit to the brilliant and career-defining performances by the cast, but the genius writing and direction of Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. I know that this film was a labour of love for the two, because they had to film it over a few years and in chunks due to Zack Gottsagen’s availability, but the end result is masterful and well worth the wait.
All Zak wants to do is meet his favorite pro-wrestler and learn how to become one himself – while Tyler is not only running from goons, but his past as well which is constantly haunting him throughout the film. While I assumed that the combo of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) would be the strongest brotherly duo of 2019, I have to change that opinion and proclaim that Shia and Zack are hands down the champs. Hell – these two are going to be hard to top for years to come.
The Peanut Butter Falcon has everything – genuine laughs, suspense, action and above all else – heart. It’s a 90-minute rollercoaster that challenged me emotionally and made me think on a deeper level that I have never bothered to explore until now. This is game-changing cinema and a film that I will always remember and cherish. Yes – it’s that good. Seek it out immediately if you can. 5 Stars even though 5 isn’t enough.
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