The Peanut Butter Falcon Review


I’m standing on the street at midnight on day ten of the South by Southwest Film Festival, working on my third or fourth wind. My flight boards in… five hours. Maybe this screening wasn’t my best idea. But after eavesdropping on some random people claiming that something called “The Peanut Butter Falcon” should be sweeping the Independent Spirits next year, we managed to squeeze in one last showing.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a mouthful of a name with a pretty clear premise. A Huck Finn-inspired story in which Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen), a young man with Down syndrome, has escaped the nursing home where he lives permanently. He teams up with Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a fisherman on the run, to head down river, while being pursued by a nursing home employee, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson). Zak is looking to find his favorite wrestler, Tyler is avoiding some complicated history, and they are both adapting to living (even if just for a short period) on the land/water.

Beyond that, the plot is pretty straightforward. A variation on a “road trip” movie where you just get to experience two people falling into easy companionship in a challenging environment, navigating everything from angry dock owners to overzealous backyard wrestlers. Despite the relatively uncomplicated plot, there is an almost fairy tale/fable-like aspect to the movie, with very little modern technology and lots of ruminating on the human condition.

It is hard for me to objectively review this film. I grew up in Savannah where it was shot, and I can’t over-emphasize what a nostalgic feeling I get while watching a crappy boat putter through wetlands. In a vacuum, it could be easy to get caught up in the “unbelievable” physical aspects of the movie (I could not be on a raft for days at a time). Still, for me, it is so grounded in its environment and both of the lead performances are truly stellar. There is something special about what Shia LaBeouf has done here.

A few years ago, I would never have imagined being so in the bag for anything LaBeouf. It is such a dialed in, deeply human performance, and this paired with 2016’s American Honey has made me very invested in LaBeouf’s next projects (especially Honey Boy later this year). He is so honest and open and generous, making any scene partner shine while he is the steady presence. A serious front runner for my personal Lead Actor category later in the year.

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a beautiful, funny, and achingly sweet dive into an underexposed community that reflects on the audience in such a natural way. I can’t wait to see it again.