Without a family, Zak (Zack Gottsagen) has Down’s Syndrome and lives in an assisted living facility with his aged roommate Carl (Bruce Dern), a retired engineer. Zak’s caseworker is Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a sympathetic soul who is trapped within the rigid rules of the assisted living facility. Inspired by Zak, Carl and Eleanor find escapism by watching VHS copies of Southern Wrestling featuring The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church).
Across a river, Tyler (Shia LeBeouf) continues his long-standing feud with Crabber Duncan (John Hawkes). A passive aggressive game of tit for tat literally explodes with a dock fire. As Tyler flees for his life, he learns he has a stowaway, Zak, on his little dinghy.
Filmed on the outer banks of Georgia, the narrative for this filmechoes Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Pat Conroy’s The Water is Wide and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sufficeth to say, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a meandering and leisurely told tale, but one that engages the ticket buyer up until the final image before the credits roll. Despite outrageous situations, itnever loses a human connection.
Not since Chris Burke’s work as “Corky” on the ABC Television Series Life Goes On, has an actor with Down’s Syndrome taken on such a responsible role. With a natural truth, Zack Gottsagen acquits himself as the title character. Despite a wide generational gap of acting schools (from the Actor’s Studio to the World Wide Wrestling League), the ensemble cast provides generous support towards their leading man.
Despite being tabloid fodder, both Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Shia LeBeouf provide transformative performances that may have affected their personal lives in a positive way. Shedding her Fifty Shades of Grey notoriety, Dakota Johnson gives a winning performance. Even the notorious Bruce Dern provides charm as a rebel who is confined to a chair in an assisted living facility.
Every couple of years, there is a motion picture sleeper that awakens the Dog Days of August box office. A roller coaster ride of laughs and tears, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a sharp contrast to the motion pictures on the big screen these days, go see this one for some Saturday matinee popcorn-eating fun!