“I’m going to give you all my wishes for my birthday.” How could you not love a film with that quotation in it? By the time I got to that quotation, however I was already hooked by this buddy film/road show.
“Zak, a 22-year-old with Down syndrome, lives in an assisted living facility in North Carolina where he is cared for by Eleanor. He dreams of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of his hero, the Salt Water Redneck, whose videos he watches obsessively. After a failed escape attempt, Zak sneaks out of the home late at night with the assistance of his elderly roommate, Carl. He stows away on a small fishing boat for the night.” – Wikipedia
Filming took place in North Carolina and Georgia. There is a cat and mouse boat chase among the reeds, which reminded me of a scene from the ultra film classic African Queen. The directors drew upon historical Americana touches throughout. Writer/directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz met Zack Gottsagen at a camp for disabled and non-disabled people. Zack told them he wanted to be a movie star. The script, a re-telling of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, was built around Zack and his character Zak.
Bruce Dern plays an old curmudgeon at the nursing home where he and Zak are living. Bruce Dern plays curmudgeons well. I loved him in Nebraska, but I almost always see him in my mind for his portrayal of a mean-spirited cattle rustler who kills John Wayne in The Cowboys.
Shia LaBeouf plays Tyler . . . a bad guy/good guy who runs afoul of two really bad guys, but befriends Zak. What made the film work for me was the down home flavor of people trying to make a living . . . just getting by. They look real.
There is a scene where Zak, Tyler, and Eleanor jump off an old oil rig; the actors themselves were the ones who swung on the rope and dived into the water. Shia LaBeouf even does a somersault as he lets go.
Eleanor is played by Dakota Johnson. She’s the daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith and the granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, who starred in Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. So, you can see the roots of this production run deep.
Although everything turns on Zak’s plan, the enabler is Tyler played by LaBeouf, who was a late replacement for the part. Although I didn’t like his film Honey Boy, I have admired his work for years. He does a fantastic, under-played role in this film. You have to wonder, if this production is based on Huckleberry Finn, then who the huck is Finn? Perhaps, Tyler is Huck and Zak is Tom Sawyer?
The ensemble carries you through adventures and triumphs. Triumphs don’t have to be major. Sometimes a triumph only needs to be small, meaningful, and private.
Tyler: You got a good-guy heart. You can’t do shit about it, that’s just who you are. You’re a hero.
Zak: I can’t be a hero because I am a Down’s syndrome.
Tyler: What’s that got to do with your heart?
Watch this clip of The Peanut Butter Falcon and enjoy – [youtube http://youtube.com/w/?v=ACze83fG4wM]