The Peanut Butter Falcon is a film that could have easily been written by the likes of Mark Twain if the author lived during this era.
Saying that Mark Twain could have written this film isn’t an understatement. Not when the large majority of the film sees Zak (Zack Gottsagen) and Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) on an adventure together. Whether it’s by foot or water, the two of them certainly bond with each other. Never more so than when Tyler has a chance encounter with Eleanor (Dakota Johson) at the gas station. The bond comes from the duo running away from their troubles. Nobody could blame Zack for running away from the retirement home. This young man may have Down’s Syndrome but he certainly should not have ever been placed in such a facility!
Zak and Tyler come from two different peas in a pod and their paths converge at a time when they need each other. Even if they don’t know it yet, they each serve an importance in the other person’s life. Tyler had it rough of late because of his brother’s death. He’s been given no choice but to fish for crab. Unfortunately, Tyler is being chased by Duncan and Ratboy (John Hawkes and Yelawolf). Anger gets the best of him when he sets their gear on fire. And just like that, some $12,000 worth of material is destroyed. As for Zak, he’s run away from the retirement home so that he can meet the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church).
When Eleanor finally catches up with Tyler and Zak, she ends up joining them on their makeshift raft. Not that she has much of a choice because her keys are somewhere in the water. It is certainly understandable to see where she’s coming from. All she wants is the best for Zak. At the same time, Zack has needs that are not being fulfilled by staying at a retirement home.
Shia LaBeouf, the former Even Stevens and Transformers star, is having himself a hell of a year. You’ll see him later this year in Amazon Studios’ Honey Boy. He delivers a splendid turn in The Peanut Butter Falcon. I will not be surprised when we hear his name announced for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. Meanwhile, both Thomas Haden Church and Bruce Dern deliver memorable turns in supporting roles.
I give a lot of credit to filmmaker Tyler Nilson. Other filmmakers could have looked to cast an actor without Down’s Syndrome. Rather than turning the part into Oscar bait for another actor, what we have here is authentic representation. Zack Gottsagen delivers a breakout performance. It really helps that the script, written by Nilson and Michael Schwartz, takes us back to another place and time. Sure, the film is as close to contemporary as it gets but you can’t help but feel like they drew on Mark Twain’s writings.
After viewing the film, it comes as no surprise that The Peanut Butter Falcon took home the Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.
DIRECTORS/SCREENWRITERS: Tyler Nilson & Michael Schwartz
CAST: Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern, Thomas Haden Church, Jon Bernthal, Yelawolf