Written and directed by duo Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is easily one of my favorite movies thus far in 2019. To be honest, this is definitely not a perfect film. But, it is indeed practically perfect at accomplishing exactly what it sets out to do. This movie warmed my heart, inspired my spirit, and gave me an overwhelming feeling of hope.
Shia LaBeouf produces an outstanding performance as Tyler, the rough-and-tumble, bad-boy redneck, and Dakota Johnson is wonderful as Eleanor, a compassionate (and worried-sick) caretaker for those with disabilities. However, it is Zack Gotsaggen who truly steals the show, in his role as Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome.
Zak has been housed at the nursing home in which Eleanor works, due to the lack of resources in the area for people with Down Syndrome and other similar disabilities. But, when Zak manages to escape from the home with the help of his (much older) best friend, Carl (Bruce Dern), Zak crosses paths with Tyler. Tyler is on the run as well, after getting mixed up in some nasty business with the wrong crowd, and not doing himself any favors along the way. As Zak and Tyler go on the run together, the unlikely pair learn more from each other over the course of a few days together than they could have learned a lifetime apart. Zak learns to believe in himself, and Tyler discovers how to love and believe in others. When Eleanor enters the fold, she too finds ways to live life more vividly and zealously. There are plenty of others along the way who are moved and inspirited by the extraordinary, sincere, and delightful soul of Zak.
In addition to the marvelous narrative, the technical elements are also superb. Filmed in Savannah, Georgia, with the story set in Eastern North Carolina, the beautiful frames of lakes, rivers, and marshlands are gorgeously shot by DP Nigel Bluck. Editors Nat Fuller and Kevin Tent have a solid handle on the well-constructed montages of Zak and Tyler’s adventures, and the original score from Zachary Dawes, Noam Pikelny, Jonathan Sadoff, and Gabe Witcher is also blended into these sequences with dexterity and excellent craftsmanship.
Even with some uneven pacing, a few sluggish sections, and a sudden conclusion to the film that felt quite abrupt and hurried, I walked away from this film with a massive smile on my face. This is a movie that will please crowds and enhearten souls. I cannot recommend this one enough.
Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz
Produced by Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa, Christopher Lemole, Tim Zajaros, Lije Sarki, and David Thies
Executive Produced by Manu Gargi, Aaron Scotti, Timothy P. Shriver, Anthony K. Shriver, Michelle Sie Witten. and Carmella Casinelli
Starring Shia Labeouf, Dakota Johnson, Zack Gotsaggen, Jon Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, Yelawolf, Jake Roberts, and Mick Foley