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The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a twenty-two year old man with down syndrome. Throughout his entire life his diagnosis has defined who he is and who cares about him. Since his family left him the state has had no choice but to keep him occupied in a retirement home. When Zak fulfills his dream of making a run from the retirement home, he runs into an unsuspecting fisherman, Tyler (Shia LaBeouf). As the two new friends go on the run, in an effort to get Zak to his hero, the wrestler Salt Water Redneck, his closest confidant--Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), and the closest thing he has to a guardian back at the retirement home, is hot on their tail. The three are bound to face a series of trials and tribulations as Zak transforms into The Peanut Butter Falcon.

As viewers plunge into the story of Zak, it’s impossible to know what lies ahead. With such a simple, but hilarious beginning, Zak’s story transforms into something much bigger and better than what anyone might have expected. The idea of unlikely friends plays a significant role in The Peanut Butter Falcon and lends itself to making Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s story of perseverance even more beautiful than I think they could have hoped for.

Zak, regardless of his situation, is an ordinary person who, like everyone else, has fears and aspirations. As he navigates the rocky terrain between his retirement home and his hero, Zak is tasked with discovering who he is and overcoming the negativity that has befallen him in the past. The Peanut Butter Falcon sees Zak change from an unknowing dependent into a unique, headstrong badass that is ready to take on the world. Gottsagen appears to be incredibly innocent, much like his character. His naivety makes him relatable and understandable and allows viewers the ability to feed off of his emotions. As he relays information to LaBeouf’s Tyler, his vulnerability and innocence radiate and give viewers a chuckle. I found myself asking if what I was laughing at was appropriate. As I continued watching--and couldn’t stop myself from laughing--I came to the conclusion that laughing everytime Zak speaks, for no reasons other than his naivety and snarky manner, is simply a reflection of the child living deep within each of us. Gottsagen, and Zak, provide viewers the opportunity to open up, accept the bit of innocence that still resides in all of us and understand that this feeling of freedom is essential every now and again.

LaBeouf, who has seemingly struggled his way through life over the course of the past five years or so makes a historic comeback in this film. His performance as the dirty, rustic and somewhat criminal fisherman from the Outer Banks sits heavily in the hearts and souls of the audience. Fans of LaBeouf’s, the ones who have stood beside him through the difficult times, see the actor that they have all come to love regain his footing in the world of Hollywood and adopt a persona that is difficult to embody. LaBeouf’s role in The Peanut Butter Falcon is almost to act as a translator for Zak. While Zak struggles to understand how exactly the world works, Tyler is there to explain what everything means and how to overcome the obstacles that will surely land before him. The beautiful bond created between Zak and Tyler are what keeps the story flowing smoothly and allows audiences to better appreciate what is being done throughout.

Through a series of heartbreaking moments, action-filled surprises and accurate depiction of people with disabilities, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sneaky hit that has something for everyone. Gottsagen is a brilliantly talented young man who possesses the ability to shine brightly in roles that differ from this. I truly believe, given the right circumstances (i.e. Hollywood giving him the shot he deserves), Gottsagen will be a name heard around the world. The Peanut Butter Falcon showcases the talents of Gottsagen, LaBeouf and Johnson, making the film a hit.

Written & Directed by Tyler Nilsonn & Michael Schwartz. Starring Zak Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, etc.




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