SURPRISED BY FILMS: “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

I have had an interest for many years in video as perhaps our age’s most creative medium. My taste, I confess, is rather eclectic, sometimes downright weird.

Over the years travelling on international flights, I have found myself scouring on-board film archives available and watching two or more in one flight. Frankly, it is hard to fine one pearl in a hundred, but every once in a while, I get surprised.

I remember one all-night flight on Emirates some years ago. I was squished in the middle seat between two passengers who were fast asleep. In desperation, I clicked on two unknowns, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Castle. Maybe not everyone’s taste, but I found myself laughing out loud through both of them. Fortunately, my seatmates never woke up.

On my latest trip last month, I stumbled onto a strange-sounding title: The Peanut Butter Falcon. It’s a sweet comedy about “families we choose,” but not in the p.c. way. Looked at providentially, it might even be about “families God chooses.” Zac, a Down Syndrome orphan who dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, escapes from the nursing home where he is confined and heads off to find “Salt Water Redneck,” his MMA fantasy guru. By chance he ends up as a castaway with another misfit, Tyler, who is embittered and grieving from the death of his brother and escaping from the law and some mean dudes on a swamp boat in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The two head off on a Mark Twain-like adventure and in the process find themselves and one another.

This a movie about male bonding, but there’s a love interest too. Eleanor, Zac’s social worker, who is “close” with Zac, is held responsible for his escape and charged to find him. When she finally catches up with the refugees, Zac throws her van keys into the ocean and she has to accompany them on their jury-rigged raft down the Carolina Coast. The odd threesome finally makes it to Salt Water Redneck’s trailer, only to find out he has retired. In the film’s climax, Zac, alias “Peanut Butter Falcon,” gets to wrestle and Tyler is caught up with by the mean dudes, almost fatally. In the final scene, Eleanor and Zac, with a wounded Tyler in the back seat, are seen driving off to a new life in Florida.

What’s touching is that each of the main characters finds a lost love in the others, of the boy for parents, of the man for a brother and wife, and of the woman for a husband and son.

In the trailing feature, it is clear that the real-life Zak (Zack Gottsagen), who is a 34-year old Down Syndrome man, fulfilled an unlikely dream of becoming a film star, and the high-profile stars, Shia LeBeouf and Dakota Johnson, were personally touched by cooperating in this unlikely venture in film.

So if you find yourself on a long flight – or whenever – you might find this one worth your while.

Valentine’s Day 2020

Photo: Delta Cabin (Flickr)