Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Zack Gottsagen, Jon Bernthal, Yelawolf, and Thomas Haden Church.
Writer(s) and Director(s): Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Studio: Roadside Attractions
The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of those films I heard about for a while now and didn’t know what to think just from reading the title before it debuted at SXSW and won the Audience Award. When the first trailer dropped a while ago, it surprised me to know that the story will feel reminiscent of a modern Huckleberry Finn– type story about this journey these two characters go on. Better yet, it was a surprise to know that those who have a heart will easily fall for one of the best films of the year.
What’s the Story: Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a 22-year-old man dealing with Down syndrome living in a nursing home because he doesn’t have any kind of family. But one night, he runs away in an attempt to meet his hero, The Salt Water Redneck and attend this wrestling school to become a professional wrestler himself. Along the way, Zak meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a down on his luck fisherman who’s on the run from a local crab fisherman named Duncan (John Hawkes) and decides to help him out in getting to his destination without any harm.
I have to give a ton of credit to the directorial debut of both Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz for helming a wonderful comedy-drama that’s handled perfectly with the right amount of heart and almost feeling like it could’ve been made in the last ’60s. At no point this I felt like I was watching these actors interact with each other, but saw them are real human beings getting to know each other and discover one’s true self. This also has one of the best cinematography of the year so far showcasing the North Carolina countryside with some beauty.
This is the first role Gottsagen has ever gotten, and I truly hope he has a great career after this comes out because he was amazing. When you have a character that’s just loveable and hilarious without realizing it, that’s an automatic win. That’s mainly for the fact that I didn’t a man with down syndrome, but a real person that’s perfectly optimistic in ways that’s understandable.
LaBeouf isn’t exactly an actor I’m a fan of from time to time. When he’s committed to a role, he does a great job. It’s when he’s acting unlikable in person is when I always tend to dislike him. But in The Peanut Butter Falcon, LaBeouf may as well given the best performance I’ve ever seen from him. Also, Dakota Johnson as Eleanor, the social worker at the nursing home searching for Zak, was able to branch out and do something good that’s not Fifty Shades that leads to a solid performance.
At the film’s core is a fascinating story about friendship. It was giving me a reason to care about both Zak and Tyler, and that’s all thanks to a great, original script from the directors. At first, Tyler doesn’t want to help Zak out, but under certain circumstances, he does eventually, and it blossoms into this brotherly love that I bought. Probably my favorite scene is this interaction at night between the two of them, and Zak asks Tyler if he’s a bad guy for the way he is. Such a wonderful scene.
And the fact that the main character is dealing with Down syndrome, it’s was the best idea to not make him feel like a little kid due to his condition. At this age and knowledge on most things, he shouldn’t come across anybody who wants to treat him poorly or doesn’t believe he can take care of himself. There are multiple occasions when people used the “r” word to describe something when there’s a different alternative makes you lose respect for that person.
I sure hope The Peanut Butter Falcon doesn’t get overlooked when Oscar season is around the corner. The chances of this getting a nomination for Best Original Screenplay doesn’t seem likely; it just depends on what else comes out. But the least it can do is for the Independent Spirit Awards to show some love. All that said, this is such a brilliantly written, funny, and beautiful looking dramedy that captures the meaning of friendship and chasing your goals to its fullest. If this ends up on my best list of the year, that’s something to be happy about.