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Grappling With Reality: The Peanut Butter Falcon

Updated on October 15, 2019


Zak, Tyler, and Eleanor dream of something better than they have in their young lives. When these three meet, they go on an adventure through North Carolina in The Peanut Butter Falcon. Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a young man with Down's Syndrome who resides in a facility intended for the elderly. He has made escape attempts with the help of the eldrely residents who sympathize with him. He finally succeeds with the help of his roommate Carl (Bruce Dern), who bends their room's window bars to the point where Zak can make one more attempt in the middle of the night. He runs until he finds shelter in a boat owned by Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a fisherman stirring up trouble by trying to catch and sell crabs without a license. Not only do Tyler's actions rile Duncan (John Hawkes), a crab fisher with a license, Tyler makes things worse by destroying Duncan's expensive crab cages. Duncan demands repayment that Tyler cannot make. Tyler, with Zak in tow, makes his escape through the back roads, as well as by water. Tyler promises to take Zak, a big wrestling fan, to a camp run by Zak's idol, The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). After that, Tyler plans to head to Florida on his own.

While Duncan and his crew hunt for Tyler, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), an aide at the home, has been tasked to retrieve Zak. She eventually finds Zak and Tyler at the beach. She states her intentions, but Tyler questions her idea of what is best for Zak. Zak makes his feelings clear by tossing Eleanor's van keys into the ocean. With no option left, Eleanor agrees to let Zak go to the camp, but she still wants the resident to return, though she never tells Zak the full story of her mission. When Duncan and his crew catch up to the trio, they destroy the raft the three had been using. They still find the Salt Water Redneck, who has closed his school, retired from wrestling, and now lives by his given name, Clint. Clint, however, does make an exception for Zak, who calls on his friend Sam (Jake "The Snake" Roberts) to train his fan to make his debut in the town's wrestling ring.


The Peanut Butter Falcon is an entertaining slice of life film which marks the feature film debut of the writing and directing team of Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz. Tyler and Zak want to make a clean break from their past, but neither of them find the task simple. They have burned their bridges in their old town, but not before people had a clue about what they were doing. The places in this movie are so small, they make Mayberry look big by comparison. Nilson and Schwartz also infuse humor into their film, such as the sequence where Tyler and Zak get caught trying to take the belongings of a blind man, and the deal they have to strike. This picture might remind some of Beasts Of The Southern Wild, which also depicted the struggle and the determination found in small town southern living. The Peanut Butter Falcon has little in the element of surprise, but it does have three characters who deal with lives in which they aren't appreciated.

The three leads deliver good performances. The more recent years of LaBeouf have been filled with more problems than acclaim, so I hope the role of Tyler is a positive step forward for him. I suppose the actor can relate to the role because Tyler has made some big mistakes, including causing an accident that claimed the life of his fisherman brother, Mark (Jon Bernthal). He knows he can no longer make a living where he lives, but he also knows he can't turn his back on Zak. Gottsagen also makes his feature debut as Zak, who charms with ease. He has no idea that the wrestling tapes he has seen are old, but he still wants a life where he can exist among his peers. He's also funny as he tries to be the sort of outdoorsman that Tyler is, but Tyler realizes that Zak might have potential as a wrestler. Johnson, as Eleanor, becomes a part of the journey, knowing she doesn't have a better alternative, but wishing that she had. She grows to care for both men, which makes her decision to help them easy. Church and Dern make the most of their brief roles. In addition to Roberts, former wrestler Mick Foley also makes a brief appearance as a referee.


The Peanut Butter Falcon takes a look at three people who have some notion that the lives they lead could potentially destroy them. One by one, each seeks a new beginning, and together, they learn they don't have to take the next steps alone. Zak, Tyler, and Eleanor make a risky break from the place they call home. As they make their journey, they create a new home of their own.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Peanut Butter Falcon three stars. Time to fly.

The Peanut Butter Falcon trailer

© 2019 Pat Mills


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