The Peanut Butter Falcon
- Katherine McLaughlin
- 14 October 2019
Contrived but endearing road trip movie that charmingly pairs Shia LaBeouf with newcomer Zack Gottsagen
On paper, Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz's directorial debut sounds like it's been created via an algorithm that's been fed a plethora of 'inspirational' Sundance screenplays. It's a road trip movie where two lost men enjoy a Huckleberry Finn-style adventure as they, walk, swim, sail and drive from North Carolina to Florida.
Thankfully, the convincing and incredibly sweet central relationship between Shia LaBeouf's Tyler and Zak – played by Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down's syndrome, who the filmmakers met at a camp for performers with disabilities, and who they wrote the story specifically for – propels the narrative along, despite myriad contrivances.
Zak is stuck in an old folks' home where he dreams of becoming a wrestler. His idol is The Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church) who he watches repetitively on an old VHS tape with close mate Carl (Bruce Dern). Much to the chagrin of carer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson, in a clichéd role), he sneaks out one night, serendipitously bumps into crab fisherman Tyler and the two go on the lam.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a film that considers the different ways strength can manifest itself: Zak's physical ability is brought to the fore through an enjoyable, gravity-defying wrestling scene (that incorporates some nice cameos), while Tyler shows incredible emotional resilience and the ability to keep going despite being flat-broke and grieving.
It's a cast made up of American indie movie royalty; alongside the aforementioned, John Hawkes pops up as a one-note villain hunting the travellers, and Jon Bernthal appears in distracting flashbacks. But it's all about the lead pairing. Gottsagen is endearingly funny and LaBeouf once again nails it as an appealing scruffbag. Together, they're a cockle-warming delight.
Selected release from Fri 18 Oct.