Samantha Incorvaia Arizona Republic
Published 7:53 PM EDT Aug 22, 2019
For some reason the title of this film, “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” initially wasn’t sticking.
But after seeing it, people will remember this as one of the year’s best movies.
There has been quiet noise around this film, but it deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting. The film is a sweet, funny and heartfelt look at friendship and strength.
Zak, played by Zack Gottsagen who has Down syndrome, lives in a retirement community where Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) works and cares for him. Most of his days are spent watching an old wrestling video about his hero, Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). It seems that Zak’s dream is to escape from North Carolina to Florida to attend his idol’s professional wrestling school. With some soap, a little clothing and help from a friend, he successfully escapes, and that’s when he meets fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), an outlaw on the run who is battling demons from past mistakes. With little money but a lot of heart, the two embark on an adventure and quickly grow close.
The backbone of this movie is LaBeouf’s chemistry with Gottsagen, though Dakota Johnson also fits in really well. It’s phenomenal to see the three characters, who all lost their families, find a family in one another.
Sometimes the story takes an absurd detour, like finding an eccentric blind man in the woods, but he and the other people they meet are all essential to drive the story home. And there’s a twist that leaves people guessing for a couple of minutes until the big reveal.
Other times, the plot gets real. It does a fantastic job without pandering. Tyler finds Zak loathsome at first, but it’s because Tyler has been a lone wolf since losing his family, not because of prejudice. The only time Down syndrome is essential to the plot is when shining a light on the lack of government resources available for those with disabilities.
With the high cinematic and narrative quality, viewers would never have guessed that “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is the feature film debut of its two writers and directors, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz.
But when audiences see “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” they can, as Zak says, expect to hang out. Chill. And have a good time.
‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’
out of four stars
Rated PG-13; mature themes, language, violence, smoking.
1 hour, 33 minutes
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