The Peanut Butter Falcon Review


Photo Credit: The Peanut Butter Falcon

(left to right) Zack Gottsagen, Dakota Johnson, and Shia LaBeouf preparing for a wrestling match near the climax of the film.

‘Passion project’ is a term that gets thrown around a lot nowadays, though not everyone may define it the same way. Ernest Barbaric, a podcaster and educator, describes a passion project as “an indulgence of your deep inner desire to create.” In other words, it is something that you put effort into creating for the sole purpose of self-satisfaction. This might take the form of a book, a musical album, or a painting. Sometimes these projects can take days, years, or even a lifetime to come to fruition.

If you haven’t guessed already, this article is about a passion project. In 2011, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, two men with no real film-experience, met a man named Zack Gottsagen at a camp for disabled actors in California. Zack was twenty-eight at the time, and was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Zack expressed interest in making a movie with Nilson and Schwartz, however, and in 2017, their project was funded and ready to begin shooting. The name of the project was The Peanut Butter Falcon.

The film itself is described as a modern retelling of Huckleberry Finn, and it follows the story of Zak (played by Zack) escaping from his retirement home and embarking on a journey to the wrestling school of his dreams, with the help of a fisherman, Tyler (played by Shia LaBeouf). Along the way, they are pursued and eventually joined by Zak’s caretaker, Eleanor (played by Dakota Johnson, doing some of her best work in years). As the film is a comedy-drama, it contains many laughs, but what really sticks with you is the heart of the film–the story of three drastically different people helping each other achieve their goals and bonding into a family.

Though not as big as some other films this year (Avengers: End of Game, or something like that), this poignant, indie passion project is worth seeing for multiple reasons. Firstly, the story is simplistic and earnest in a way that few movies are anymore. Secondly, Zack Gottsagen is beyond amazing here, as he plays a version of himself stretched to the limits. Still on the topic of the cast, this film proved to be the dramatic turnaround Shia LaBeouf needed, as his relationship with Zack Gottsagen really moved him to evaluate his own life (I could go into more depth here, but I’m going to let those interested research it themselves. It’s definitely worth a look.). Lastly, support for this film is support for many things, such as actors with disabilities, artists working on their unlikely passion projects, and just more stories like this in Hollywood.

There is something so appealing and fulfilling about watching so many dreams culminate before your eyes, and there has been no greater example of that this year than The Peanut Butter Falcon, so I strongly encourage you to find a way to view this quiet masterpiece. If nothing else, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor.