The Peanut Butter Falcon
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a 2019 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, in their feature film directorial debuts, and starring Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal and Thomas Haden Church. Its plot follows a young man with Down syndrome (Gottsagen) who escapes from an assisted living facility and befriends a wayward fisherman on the run (LaBeouf); as the two men form a rapid bond, a social worker (Johnson) attempts to track them.
|The Peanut Butter Falcon|
|Distributed by||Roadside Attractions|
|Box office||$23.3 million|
Filming took place in North Carolina and Georgia. The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 9, 2019, and was given a limited theatrical release in the United States on August 9, 2019, by Roadside Attractions. The film went on to become a sleeper hit, grossing over $23 million, making it the highest grossing independent film of the year, and received praise from critics.
Zak, a 22-year-old man with Down Syndrome, escapes from a state-run care facility with the help of his elderly roommate, to train as a professional wrestler under the tutelage of his hero, the Saltwater Redneck. Meanwhile Tyler, a man fired for bringing in illegal crab catches, decides to burn the gear of his rivals, and goes on the run himself. While on the run, Zak and Tyler meet, and embark on a journey to the Saltwater Redneck's wrestling school in North Carolina. Zak's caretaker at the nursing home, Eleanor, embarks on her own journey to find Zak, and return him safely to the facility.
Zak and Tyler become friends as they travel. Tyler teaches Zak various life skills, including how to use a gun, and eventually takes on the role of his coach, getting him in shape for his wrestling endeavors. They eventually build a raft and begin traveling by water. Eleanor soon finds them, but after learning her boss intends to send Zak to a more severe form of confinement, joins them to travel south.
One night, two men pursuing Tyler catch up with the trio, and Zak defends them with the gun. When they reach North Carolina, Tyler learns Clint (the Saltwater Redneck) has retired and closed the school, but convinces him to resurrect his alter ego for Zak. Saltwater trains Zak as a wrestler, and quickly puts Zak on a local fight card, which he believes he has rigged for Zak's safety and success. However, when the fight happens, Zak's opponent, Sam, does not hold back, and proceeds to beat him. As Tyler attempts to intervene, the two men arrive, and one man hits Tyler on the head with a tire iron, knocking him unconscious right as Zak manages to lift Sam overhead and throw him forcefully out of the ring, something Saltwater had told him was impossible. The film ends with Tyler healing from the injury as they drive towards Florida, implying the start of a new life.
- Shia LaBeouf as Tyler
- Zack Gottsagen as Zak
- Dakota Johnson as Eleanor
- Bruce Dern as Carl
- Jon Bernthal as Mark
- Thomas Haden Church as Clint / The Salt Water Redneck
- John Hawkes as Duncan
- Yelawolf as Ratboy
- Jake "The Snake" Roberts as Sam
- Mick Foley as Jacob, the referee of Zak and Sam's wrestling match
- Wayne Dehart as Jasper John
The film is a modern retelling of the Huckleberry Finn story, which takes Gottsagen's own desire to be an actor and changes it into a quest to become a wrestler. Nilson and Schwartz first met Zack Gottsagen at a camp for actors with disabilities around 2011 in Venice, California, and he expressed interest in them making a film with him. After shooting a $20,000 proof-of-concept video, with producer David Thies, the duo received funding for a feature starring Gottsagen. The project was officially announced in June 2017, with Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, and Bruce Dern also starring. In July 2017, production began in Georgia. Later that month, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, and Thomas Haden Church were added to the cast, with professional wrestlers Mick Foley and Jake Roberts and rapper Yelawolf making appearances in the film.
Schwartz and Nilson wanted to play the music that inspired them while writing, and on set used a boombox to play the same music before performing a scene. The soundtrack brings together bluegrass, folk songs, and spirituals, for a mix of contemporary and timeless. The soundtrack contains original music composed by Zach Dawes, Jonathan Sadoff of Thenewno2, and Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers, as well as new and classic songs from Sara Watkins, Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show, Gregory Alan Isakov, Ola Belle Reed, and the Staple Singers. They were surprised to be able to secure the rights to many of the songs they used at a fraction of the cost they expected.
The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 9, 2019. Shortly after, Roadside Attractions acquired distribution rights to the film, and released it in theaters on August 9, 2019.
The Peanut Butter Falcon grossed $20.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $23.1 million.
In its limited opening weekend on August 9, the film grossed $205,200 from 17 theaters. The studio reported that the film was number one in more than half of the theaters it played at, including "a big commercial multiplex in Salt Lake City," and locations in Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte, Denver and Austin, with "lots of sellouts in various markets." The film expanded wide on August 23, to 991 theaters, and grossed $3 million for the weekend, finishing 12th. It went on to become a sleeper hit, expanding the following weekend to 1,249 theaters and earning $3 million, as well as $1.1 million on Labor Day. The film grossed $115,420 in its 11th week of release, crossing the $20 million mark.
The film was met with positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 94% based on 203 reviews, with an average rating of 7.47/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A feelgood adventure brought to life by outstanding performances, The Peanut Butter Falcon finds rich modern resonance in classic American fiction." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of "A+," while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4.5 out of 5 stars and a 62% "definite recommend."
Peter Debruge of Variety praised the performances, saying "In Gottsagen, we get a performer who appears to be playing an earnest, unfiltered version of himself, while in LaBeouf, there are layers at play. Oddly enough, both approaches result in a kind of spontaneous unpredictability." He called the film "a feel-good niche indie with its priorities in the right place." Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "[Gottsagen's] sensibility infuses the modern-day fable with an engaging forthrightness. But the unequivocal material often sticks close to the surface, and the film built around him, for all its physical sweep, can feel constricted by obviousness."
- The Narrative Spotlight Audience Award at South by Southwest
- Audience Award for Narrative Feature and Winner for Best Narrative Feature at the Nantucket Film Festival
- Truly Moving Picture Award at the Heartland Film Festival
- Audience Choice Award and outstanding debut performance for Zack Gottsagen at Crested Butte Film Festival
- Audience Award at the Deauville Film Festival
- Rising Star Award for Zack Gottsagen at Palm Springs International Film Festival
- Ken Hanke Memorial Tar Heel Award for directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz from North Carolina Film Critics Association
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- "Truly Moving Picture Award". Heartland Film Festival.
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