The Peanut Butter Falcon.
You know, I’ve been rooting for Shia LaBeouf. He went through a bit of a tailspin but he seems to have come out the other side with a new drive. Luckily, The Peanut Butter Falcon might just be the movie to redeem him.
We follow Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, who has been placed in an elderly care facility in North Carolina because there’s nowhere else for him to go. He’s taken care of by a woman named Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) who tries to watch out for him, until Zak escapes in the night with nothing but his underwear. Zak then crosses paths with Tyler (LaBeouf), a man who dreams of being a crabber in Florida someday but has gotten into trouble with local hoodlums who are out to beat him. So Zak and Tyler start out on a journey south, by land, by truck, and by boat. Their story is sweet and inspirational, where both men teach each other what they need to survive.
This is an incredibly refreshing film and one of my favorites so far this year. It’s a simple premise but it is the endearing characters who make this story come to life. A lot of the story is based on Gottsagen’s own experiences having Down syndrome, so it’s got a feeling of authenticity that elevates this film to another level. And this is undoubtedly one of Shia’s best films, allowing him to give a potentially Oscar-caliber performance. There’s a lot of 2019 left, we’ll see how it shakes out.
This is an incredibly funny movie, too, with an innocence from Gottsagen that makes even life-threatening moments a little lighter. He has a natural charisma with both LaBeouf and Johnson and you can tell there’s a lot of improvised moments between these characters, but it totally works.
I also appreciated Dakota Johnson here, as she’s trying to maybe redeem her career after the Fifty Shades franchise. This is a nuanced and simple performance from her but it works and it contrasts with Shia’s Tyler in interesting ways.
There’s also some surprise talent that show up here, including Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, The Punisher). He had another surprise cameo in Wind River that kind of reminded me of this. He only shows up in flashbacks that inform us about the kind of tragic past that Shia’s Tyler is trying to escape from.
What doesn’t work?
For me, this hit all the right notes. It was tense at times but ultimately you had a feeling that everything would end up alright, which means it didn’t throw you for too many loops. It’s a simple movie but we need that sometimes.
I don’t think there’s a person out there that couldn’t benefit from this film. It’s entertaining and educational, even inspiring at times. The performances from all three of our leads are phenomenal and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shia LaBeouf get a Best Actor nod. It’s a funny and light-hearted movie, a perfect reprieve from intense summer blockbusters. I wholeheartedly endorse this movie, no questions asked.