The Peanut Butter Falcon

Posted on August 8, 2019 at 5:38 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic content, language throughout, some violence and smoking
Profanity: Strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and violence, character injured
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: August 9, 2019
Date Released to DVD: November 11, 2019

Copyright 2019 Roadside Attractions
The story behind the making of “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is as sweet and inspiring as the one on the screen. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz met ZacK Gottsagen when they were working at an arts program for people with disabilities. Gottsagen, who has has Down syndrome, told them he wanted to be an actor, and asked them to write a movie for him. So they checked some books about screenwriting out of the library and came up with this script, which is not just about a character based on Gottsagen, but about their community of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The sense of place (though it was filmed in Georgia) is as important to the film as the characters on an unexpected journey.

It is remarkably assured for a first film, with an excellent supporting cast of talented pros and superb cinematography and music choices. The genuine affection and — especially — the respect Nilson and Schwartz have for the real-life Zack and the character he plays keep this story from being condescending or sugary.

Gottsagen plays a character also named Zack, a young man with no family and no resources who has been placed by Virginia authorities in the only facility they could find for him, a nursing home for the elderly. His roommate there is a retired engineer named Carl (Bruce Dern), who helps him escape, after watching Zack’s VHS tape of his favorite wrestler, the Salt Water Redneck for the zillionth time. Zack wants to be a wrestler, and his dream is to get to the Salt Water Redneck’s training facility in Florida. This is not one of those “there is none so cognitively impaired as those who will not think” movies.

Importantly, Zack is not a narrative convenience for the other characters to learn lessons and feel better about themselves. Zack (the character) is a real person with some limitations but a cheerful disposition and a true heart. His view of the world is as constrained by the restricted environment he was put in as by his cognitive ability. “The state has to put you somewhere and this happens to be that place,” he is told. You do not have to have a PhD to know that does not make much sense. And you don’t have to do higher math or be able to explain the metaphors in Moby Dick to know that people want to be with friends and follow their dreams. This movie is very much his story and he is very much at the heart of it.

The nursing home administrator does not want to report Zack’s escape to the police, so he sends a sympathetic aide (Dakota Johnson as Eleanor) to find him. Zack’s lack of planning (he escapes wearing nothing but underpants and has no money) helps in a way because he is seen as vulnerable and non-threatening. Tyler (Shia LeBoeuf) is a tidewater fisherman who has fallen on hard times, in part due to his bitterness and grief and guilt over the death of his brother (Jon Bernthal, glimpsed in wordless flashbacks). His own poor judgment escalates a fight with another fisherman (John Hawkes), who comes after him. Tyler does his best to avoid taking responsibility for Zack, but gives in when he sees how much Zack needs help. On the road, they have adventures, encounter interesting people, and begin to first trust and then like one another.

One of the highlights of the film is when they meet a blind man who insists on baptizing Zach. Tyler refuses, saying he prefers baptism by fire. It is presented with sincerity and a delicate lyricism that helps elevate the folkloric tone, as does the exceptional soundtrack and the exquisite cinematography, all of which set the tone for the satisfying conclusion.

Parents should know that this movie has some peril and violence, including arson, shooting, and an attack with a tire iron and an off-screen fatal car accident. There is some strong language, a character runs around in underwear, drinking and drunkenness, and a kiss.

Family discussion: What made Tyler change his mind about helping Zack? Why did the Saltwater Redneck encourage Zack to fight? What will happen next?

If you like this, try: “Little Miss Sunshine” (rated R) from the same producers, “Where Hope Grows,” and “Up Syndrome”

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Disabilities and Different Abilities Drama DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format

Fury

Posted on October 16, 2014 at 5:58 pm

fury brad pittHistory, Winston Churchill reminds us, is written by the victors. But sometimes those victors have some second thoughts, more complex thoughts, about the nature of heroism, patriotism, and the spoils (in both senses) of war. And sometimes people want to comment on contemporary conflicts but find that it is more compelling in an historical framework. That is how we get “Fury,” a fictional story set in the last days of WWII, with Brad Pitt as “Wardaddy” (everyone gets a “war name”), the leader of a tank team pushing through an increasingly desperate Germany.

“Fury” is what is painted on the gun barrel of the tank. Death, both German and Allied Forces, is everywhere. Our forces, we are told at the beginning, are “outgunned and out-armored,” with “staggering losses.”

The first person we see looks like a cowboy hero, a lone figure on a horse, silhouetted against the sun.  He is not a cowboy and he is not a hero.  He is about to be killed, and not in a Hollywood, glamorized, bang bang way.

“It will end, soon,” Wardaddy tells Norman (Logan Lerman), his fresh-faced and terrified new driver, a kid fresh from the typing pool who has never been in a tank or fired a gun in combat. “But before it does, a lot more people have to die.”

I’m in favor of movies that show war as brutal, morally compromised, and horrific. Ultimately, though, it has to have more to say than that.  It is a movie, a work of drama, and if it is not going to be about something bigger than how terrible war is, it runs the risk of making the very horrors it depicts turn into entertainment and have exactly the opposite impact from the original intention.  Steven Spielberg did it with “Saving Private Ryan,” making both the personal story of the individual characters and the larger story about sacrifice and honor compelling and meaningful.

But writer/director David Ayer, whose previous films included the pulpish law-and-order “SWAT,” “Sabotage,” and “End of Watch,” is no Spielberg (though this film borrows a lot from “Saving Private Ryan”).  This film tells us very little about history, war, or the human experience.

Parents should know that this film includes very intense and graphic wartime violence with many characters injured and killed, executions, disturbing images, sexual assault, looting, constant very strong and crude language, drinking, smoking

Family discussion: How does this differ from other portrayals of WWII combat? What are the different ways the men in this movie cope with the moral compromises of war? Why did the men choose “war names” and what did they signify?

If you like this, try: WWII dramas “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Big Red One” and the Israeli film “Beaufort”

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Drama War

Lawless

Posted on August 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Musician Nick Cave and director John Hillcoat are Australians who are drawn to bleak internal and external landscapes.  They worked together on “The Proposition,” a western-style and very violent crime story about brothers.  “Lawless” is another crime story about brothers, again very violent and, like “The Proposition,” with a bleak setting and compromised characters.  This one is a true story, based on Matt Bondurant‘s book about his Prohibition-era grandfather and great uncles, who were ran illegal hooch in Franklin County, Virginia, described by writer Sherwood Anderson as “the wettest county in the world.”

“There’s a feeling around these parts that these Bondurants is indestructible,” one character says.  Forrest Bondurant (a quietly powerful Tom Hardy) came back from WWI without injury and the community almost believes the legend that he cannot be stopped.  That’s good for business; you might even say it is their brand.  But just as in legitimate enterprise, the success of a local operation selling moonshine in mason jars attracts the interest of the competition.  The big bootlegging organization out of Chicago is thinking about what one might call a very hostile takeover.  The Bondurants have a good relationship with the local sheriff, who is happy looking the other way for a small piece of the action.  But a federal agent named Charlie Rakes (an oily and twisted Guy Pearce) arrives and for him it is not about law, morality, or directions from his superiors.  It is about power.  The Bondurants are not afraid of him and that is why he wants to destroy them.  Pearce, in gloves and slicked-down hair parted in the middle, is one of the best villains of the year.

Forrest is the leader and he has an unspoken understanding with his brother Howard (Jason Clarke).  Indeed, a lot that goes on here is unspoken.  The youngest brother, Jack (Shia LeBoeuf) wants to prove himself to his older brothers.  And he wants to prove something to a pretty churchgoing girl named Bertha (Mia Wasikowska).  Brash and flashier than his brothers, he has the nerve to try to make a deal with machine gun-toting Chicago hood Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman) and the entrepreneurial instinct to improve and expand production and delivery.  When he sees a brutal gangland slaying, his only thought is to grab a souvenir shell case.  He will have a Michael Corleone moment when the violence gets closer to home.   “It is not the violence that sets men apart,” Forrest says.  “It is the distance he is prepared to go.”  The Bondurants do not give up.  It is not about the money.  It is about defending their home and their right to make their own choices.

Maggie (Jessica Chastain) shows up out of the blue one day, offering her manicured hand to Forrest’s rough one and offering to work for the brothers.  “The city can grind a girl down,” she tells Forrest.  “Gets to a point where you start looking for somewhere quiet.”

Franklin County is far from quiet.  But the noise Maggie wanted to escape was the cacophony of heartlessness she was surrounded by in the city.  Everyone in this story is breaking the de jure law, but Maggie knows that the Bondurants have a core of integrity and loyalty that she can count on.  And she will show that she can be counted on as well.

Strong performances and an evocative sense of time and place anchor the film and the unexpected tenderness of the romantic interludes balances the brutality.  A coda provides perspective that just because someone is willing to go the distance does not mean he cannot come back home.

Parents should know that this is the true story of moonshiners during Prohibition, so the good guys are law-breakers and the police are corrupt.  The movie includes extremely graphic violence with characters tortured, injured, sexually abused, and killed, strong language including a racial slur and segregation, sexual situations including prostitution, female nudity, and alcohol and smoking.

Family discussion:  How were the brothers alike and how were they different?  The script was written by musician Nick Cave – how does the music help tell the story?

If you like this, try: Lawless: A Novel Based on a True Story by the real-life grandson of the youngest Bondurant brother

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story Crime Drama Romance
ir.gif

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Posted on December 14, 2010 at 10:00 am

Is greed still good? Does greed still, for want of a better word, work?
Twenty-three years later, Gordon Gekko is back, still played by Oscar-winner Michael Douglas and now running short on money and even shorter on what he realizes is an even more valuable commodity: time. We see him being released from prison, his personal effects including a gold money clip (empty) and his old cellular phone (the size of a shoebox). He walks out into the sunlight toward a sleek black limo only to see that it is there for someone else, the also-departing rap star.
Balzac famously said that behind every great fortune is a crime. That is literally true in Gekko’s case; he traded on inside information. But it is also true in a larger sense because the real reason for Gekko’s wealth is a fierce and unquenchable passion not for money but for winning. He has had a long time in prison to watch and think and plan his comeback. And so he leverages his notoriety into television and in-person appearances to promote his book.
The sequel is so close to the same framework as the original that at times it feels like a remake. Again there is a bright, ambitious and essentially honest young man with a lower-income parent exemplifying the current financial upheavals who gets drawn by Gekko’s gravitational pull. It’s Jake (Shia LaBeouf), who has the added complication of being engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter (“An Education’s” Carey Mulligan, LeBeouf’s real-life love). And there is another big-time financier like the one played by Terence Stamp in the first film, Bretton James, played by Josh Brolin. Once again, there is an old guy who is the movie’s repository of wisdom and integrity (a fine Eli Wallach). Once again, the young man thinks he can hold on to his values and once again he will find Wall Street is more treacherous than he thought.
In his brilliant book on the financial meltdown, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis muses that his first expose of the wild world of Wall Street excess, Liar’s Poker was instead viewed “as a how-to manual.” The same is true for the first “Wall Street.” As the costume designer noted, the wardrobe from the first movie was selected for dramatic impact, not authenticity. But it was adopted by the real Wall Streeters, who were as thrilled with Gekko’s look as they were with his bravado, and his wealth.
While Douglas continues to be enough to make the entire movie worth watching, there is little chemistry with LeBoeuf or between LeBoeuf and Mulligan. The first film was an intriguing look at a hidden world. But today, with business news on the front pages and the editorial pages, on 24/7 news channels and thousands of websites, Wall Streeters are less often seen as dashing buccaneers than as the people most responsible for bringing the United States to the brink of economic destruction. The movie itself seems as though it cannot make up its mind what it wants from Gekko.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Drama Family Issues Series/Sequel
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik