Imagine a movie so sweet that you can recommend it to literally anyone.
It's really hard to find a movie that you can watch with the whole family. You want it to be entertaining, interesting, impart a lesson, and it can't have anything objectionable or too offensive. When I recommend films to people, I try to take all this stuff into account.
But when I saw The Peanut Butter Falcon, I finally knew a title that transcended those caveats.
I would tell anyone to watch this movie. I think watching it might make them a better person. And I'm not being hyperbolic—if you've seen it, then you know.
Today, I want to go over the movie's script and talk about what makes it such a wonderful story and an excellent piece of writing.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is an adventure story that begins when Zak (Zach Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome runs away from a nursing home where he lives to chase his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and attending the wrestling school of The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). Through circumstances beyond their control, Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), an outlaw on the run, becomes Zak’s unlikely coach and ally. They team up with Zak's sister, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a kind nursing home employee with a story of her own, to join them on their journey.
The movie was written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz.
Let's talk about something right off the bat. Representation for people with down syndrome and people with all disabilities across Hollywood is abysmal. We rarely see storylines where they are the feature characters.
A lot of this has to do with the misconception that people cannot do the work. That's false and misguided. I hope that the success of this movie dispels those myths. Let's look into a few other things this movie does really well.
The best characters have clear motives and defined arcs. Well, in this movie everyone has a mission. Zak is trying to get to a wrestling school, Tyler is trying to get away, and Elanor is trying to get Zak back.
The goals are clear, concise, and allow us a ton more room to dig into what's inside these people. We learn Tyler has some emotional baggage early on. He was taken care of by his bother, who is now deceased. Now Tyler is aimless.
On the other side is Zak, he has no one to take care of him, so he was left in a retirement community.
Together, they put this pain on display and find comfort in one another.
Eleanor is someone who wants the best for Zak but also needs to see him as his own person who doesn't need to be coddled all the time.
There is real chemistry among the cast that makes these things pop.
The movie's theme is simple and said early on by Bruce Dern's character: "Friends are the family you choose." Over the course of the story, we see this theme come out in dialogue and action. Zak wants to be a wrestling villain because of the way he was born. Tyler has to help him see that that's not the way to actually feel. But the theme also echoes in Tyler. He thinks he's a villain too, but Zak becoming part of his friendship family shows him he can be the hero of his own story, too.
Eleanor's search for Zak proves this time and time again. She wants him to come home to the place where no one is related to him, but everyone cares about him.
One of the things that made this movie pop was the dialogue. Everything feels natural and there are no wasted words or speech. I want to look at the speech I mentioned earlier. The way it's written just hums.
I also like the way the scene is written from an action standpoint. We don't have too much there. There's plenty of room for the actors to find their own voice here and to embody the people on the page.
Sorry for the sporadic image sizes, but you can see how the story and words really work into one another. We get a clear sense of the other two bullets here. The theme and the characters. These are people on a journey. What I love about road movies is that you can take the characters on an external journey and match up those beats. This dialogue is at the beginning of the actual journey—we know how each person is starting.
Sum it up...
In the end, all 3 of these elements are what work together to provide a great experience. A movie is always the sum of its parts, so try to make the building blocks as good as they did in The Peanut Butter Falcon.
What's next? Get our free screenwriting eBook!
So much of what we're talking about on No Film School when it comes to screenwriting is summarized in our new eBook. It also helps guide you through a 10-week writing plan that will get your script actually finished.