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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "The Peanut Butter Falcon" an adorable tale of love, friendship, family

Aug 09, 2019 12:42PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, and Zack Gottsagen in The Peanut Butter Falcon - © 2019 Roadside Attractions.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (Roadside Attractions)

Rated PG-13 for thematic content, language throughout, some violence and smoking.

Starring Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, Zack Gottsagen, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Thomas Haden Church, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Yelawolf.

Written and Directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz.



I believe that fairy tales are the embodiment of one’s wishes for the best possible outcomes. Such expectations become problematic when real life fails to live up to such narratives, and those stories may become painful reminders of what “could have been.” The Peanut Butter Falcon is one such story, a tale about a fugitive criminal, a social worker and young man with Down Syndrome on a journey in search of happiness.

Shia LaBeouf stars as Tyler, a down-on-his-luck crab fisherman who torches the nets of his rival (John Hawkes). Fleeing legal and violent reprisals, Tyler takes off into the swampy shores of Virginia, where he meets Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a ward of the state who escaped from a nursing home, on a quest to meet and train with his wresting hero, the “Salt Water Redneck” (Thomas Haden Church). Tyler reluctantly agrees to help Zak reach his destination in North Carolina. Meanwhile, Zak’s caretaker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) eventually catches up with the pair, who have become best friends. She joins them on the tail end of their journey, where Zak meets his wrestling idol and Tyler’s past catches up with him. Without spoiling much, I’ll suggest that the conclusion carries open-ended possibilities.

The few flaws of The Peanut Butter Falcon include improbabilities in a story that progresses toward an improbable conclusion. Those imperfections are overcome by the perfect chemistry between LaBeouf and Gottsagen. Their friendship seems genuine and sincere, evoking deep emotions of love, understanding, family, and the worth of souls. It’s a movie inspired by a line of dialogue spoken by Carl (Bruce Dern), Zak’s nursing home roommate when he says, “friends are the family you choose.”

For LaBeouf, it is the very best performance of his tumultuous career and gives fans hope that he will continue to seek roles that help him recover from the bad headlines and unstable behavior of the past nine years. With no pretense or condensation, I suggest that Gottsagen’s performance is equally brilliant and does not come across as an affectation of his Down Syndrome. The newcomer (whose real-life meeting with writer-directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz inspired the film) shows the impeccable timing, depth, and sincerity of a seasoned actor.

The Peanut Butter Falcon may be an improbable modern-day Mark Twain fairy tale, but it’s an adorable escape that will inspire audiences to seek great outcomes in a world full of problems.

"The Peanut Butter Falcon" Trailer