The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

From the moment I saw the trailer for The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) I knew it was a film for me. I had to wait for about three weeks for my local theater to get it, but it finally arrived and I couldn’t wait to see it. Unfortunately, a trend I’m seeing at my local theater is I tend to be the only one at the late Saturday showing of the new indie film (this and Blinded by the Light (2018)), a time slot that appears to be mostly reserved for blockbusters. My empty theater just prompted me to freely react and interact with this film and I took great joy in watching it. 

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a heart warming, entertaining success!

There is a dual narrative in this film by first time directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz. The main narrative follows Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down Syndrome, who has been dumped by the government in a retirement home. He wants to escape because he knows he doesn’t belong there and he dreams of attending Saltwater Redneck’s (Thomas Haden Church) wrestling school. 

Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), the other strand of the dual narrative, is struggling to get by and dealing with the death of his brother (Jon Bernthal). While trying to make a living, he upsets a few other fishermen, Duncan (John Hawkes) and Ratboy (Yelawolf), who look to make a lesson out of him. Tyler isn’t willing to just take a beating, but his retaliation goes too far and he has to run. 

Zak stumbles into Tyler’s life during an intense escape sequence having stowed away on Tyler’s boat. Initially, Tyler wants nothing to do with Zak, but fate has a funny way of putting what we need in front of our faces. Tyler agrees to help Zak get to the wrestling school since it’s on his way south to Florida. Though, both Tyler and Zak have someone looking for them while they make their way south. 

LaBeouf has had a crazy career and life. Though since American Honey (2016), he has been making some pretty great movies and giving great performances. He is so great in this movie. Tyler has a tough exterior, but he is clearly going through something inside. There is a debate at one point in the film about good guys and bad buys in the context of professional wrestling, but it is such a clear theme of the film. I found LaBeouf performance to be so deep and rich that he really made his character feel lived in. The movie is just over 90 minutes yet the way we get to know the characters feels like we spend so much more time with them. 

Gottsagen is an actor with Down Syndrome in his first feature film. He does such a great job and has so much chemistry with LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, who is playing Eleanor who is trying to find Zak to bring him back to the nursing home. I can’t imagine anyone not finding Gottsagen to be charming and finding a connection to his character Zak. He has so much ambition and hope, but there is a tragic quality about him. He knows how other people view him and he seems content with it, but also not willing to let his stop him from pursuing his ambition. 

There is no way to watch this movie and not think of Huckleberry Finn as it is very much a road trip of two “outlaws” on the run. They are bonded at first by their situation, but find so much more on the journey. Like many of these films, the destination really isn’t the point of it, but I found where they initially end up to be a great ending with some cool cameos. 

Final thoughts…

The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of my favorite films of 2019 so far. While we are just entering into Oscar season, I’d be surprised to find any movie that fills me with so much joy and manages to be so entertaining. If it is playing at a theater near you please go and see this movie. Support the small, first time filmmakers when they craft something truly worth your time. The Peanut Butter Falcon earns the Must See rating.

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