By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Every once in a while, a sentimental piece of cinema comes along and completely wins one’s heart. That is definitely the case with The Peanut Butter Falcon, an indie film with a lot of heart and passion. As I write this review, I am still feeling the real emotions and power of this movie which follows the journey of a man with Down syndrome actively pursuing his passion in life. The main character, Zak, despite his limitations, pursues his goals of fortune and fame, no matter what obstacles threaten to stop him. Now I know this might sound trite and saccharine, but writers/directors Tyler Nilsson and Michael Schwartz manage to pull this off beautifully.
Zack Gottsagen stars as Zak, a downtrodden man with Down Syndrome forced to live in a nursing home by a family who doesn’t wish to assume the responsibility of his care. Though Zak may be disabled, he still wishes for a life of fame and glory. Inspired by some old VHS wresting videos, Zak aspires to be a professional wrestler. When he does manage to successfully escape his nursing facility, Zak crosses paths with a man named Tyler (Shia LeBeouf), a man with a checkered past indebted to some unsavory characters. Reluctantly, because he is on the run, Tyler agrees to accompany Zak to meet his hero wrestler, a low budget wresting figure known as “The Salt Water Redneck” (Thomas Haden Church). During this journey Zak learns to enjoy the simple things in life and the joys of his freedom.
I was absolutely charmed, impressed and engrossed with this movie. Tyler Nilsson and Michael Schwartz take a simpke premise and really make it soar high. This movie certainly deserves an award for the best feel-good film of the year and these filmmakers earn it with outstanding writing and assured direction. It also helps that the filmmakers have assembled an great cast for movie, all of whom playing their parts beautifully.
Shia LeBeouf could quite possibly earn himself some awards attention with his excellent turn as Tyler. He brings a genuine grit with much heart to his character. I was also impressed with Dakota Johnson as Eleanor, a caring employee of Zak’s nursing facility who actively pursues Zak after his escape. The film also can boast the casting of John Hawkes who superbly portrays Duncan, a not-so-friendly character pursuing Tyler.
The real star of the movie is Zack Gottsagen, an actor who really has Down Syndrome. As Zak, Gottsagen brings genuine joy and spirit to his character and this natural enthusiasm is what makes his character work so well. The movie also features great performances by Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Bernthal, Mick Foley, and Jake Roberts.
So, it should be quite evident at this point, that I truly love this film and consider it one of the best movies of the year. Though it is simple in its presentation, it genuinely has some wonderful messages of love, passion, and tenacity. The Peanut Butter Falcon soars highly above a lot of other movies this year and earns its wings for being unabashedly pure in its heart.