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The Peanut Butter Falcon


I have never heard of Writer/Directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz before, but any actor in need of a career renaissance should put them on speed dial.

Shia LaBeouf? Dakota Johnson? Visions of bad Transformers movies and those 50 Shades of Grey disasters I'll never watch fill my head with horror.

BUT....wow are they both very good in the independent film THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON.

Newcomer Zack Gottsagen stars as Zak, a young Downs Syndrome man placed in a nursing home by the system. He's got one dream: to escape to a Wrestling School in Florida run by his hero The Salt Water Redneck, played with humor & heart by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways).

Zak's roommate Carl (a surprisingly gentle Bruce Dern) feels his pain and soon Zak's on the road by himself.

Hot on his trail is his counselor Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), following him town to town.

Zak meets Tyler (LaBeouf) who's escaping from his own troubles. Watching Tyler and Zak form a bond is so perfectly executed and true to life that you never feel like you're being manipulated, a tribute to Nilson/Schwarts' terrific dialogue and sure handed direction.

Zak's performance is terrific, living as a tribute to the heart and passions of this 22 year old Down's actor. There isn't a false moment or line reading and his interactions with Tyler and Eleanor are funny and moving.

John Hawkes (Winter's Bone) is reliably great as a local fisherman in violent pursuit of Tyler.

The characters mention Mark Twain and it's not false praise to say that this fable plays like a modern day Twain pilgrimage, about characters in search of their real nature and true capabilities.

With river baptisms, moonshine dances by the fire and backyard wrestling matches, its a vision of the deep South that never panders to its citizens, but doesn't whitewash them either.

The music score and songs are exceptionally good. The song "Running for So Long" should be in the Oscar race next year for Best Song.

Beautifully shot on location by Nigel Bluck (True Detective), lessons about friends and the family you pick for yourself, loyalty and our true natures land as softly as the Southern sunsets that dominate many a scene.

LaBeouf is perfect in the best performance of his career and Johnson surprised me, she's terrific. Gottsagen triumphs, delivering punch lines and dramatic moments with equal panache.

You don't get Church, Dern, Hawkes and Jon Bernthal into an independent film unless it's something special and this qualifies.

The film won the Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight at SXSW Film Fest 2019.

Regardless of its silly name, it's not a family film for young children, but it will make young adults and adults think about how we judge people, their dreams and expectations.

THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON is funny, uplifting and quietly powerful. It gets an A.

And remember, Rule #1 is "Party" a line ad-libbed by Zack during filming.....hilarious.

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