Premiering at South by Southwest last year, indie sleeper hit The Peanut Butter Falcon makes its way into Australian cinemas this month.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, The Peanut Butter Falcon centres on Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a 22-year-old with Down Syndrome, who lives in a retirement home in North Carolina. An avid fan of wrestling, Zak is known as a ‘flight risk’ to staff. When he finally flees the facility in the dead of night to seek out his wrestling hero the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), it’s up to his carer Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) to track him down.
After spending his first night on the run sleeping under a tarp on a fishing boat, Zak crosses paths with thief and fisherman Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), who is on the run himself after upsetting two fellow crabbers. Together, the two outsiders head out in the sticks in search of somewhere to hide, and along the way forge a special friendship.
While Nilson and Schwartz’s twee script isn’t going to win any awards for originality, The Peanut Butter Falcon does win you over through sheer charm and sincerity. Zak and Tyler’s escapades in the woods are wholesome AF. They eat watermelons (and wear them as helmets), use bottles as target practice and work on their secret handshake.
Between this and the recent Honey Boy, LaBeouf continues to take his career in new and interesting directions. Johnson has deftly moved on from the Fifty Shades saga with some equally varied choices, this film included. However, it’s Gottsagen who (rightly) shines brightest. His pure onscreen presence pairs beautifully with LaBeouf’s abrasive runaway, until all the rough edges and animosity have melted away between the two.
On paper, the film sounds like it was cooked up using a ‘my first indie film’ starter kit, but by the end of its trim 97-minute run time, the heartfelt ‘friends are the family you choose’ narrative warms the cockles of your heart, even if you cynically think you have seen this kind of movie before (you definitely have). When all is said and done, The Peanut Butter Falcon sells us this idea that we should be out there living life, not sitting around pushing papers and – you know what – it’s hard to argue with that.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is available in Australian cinemas from January 30
Image courtesy of Rialto Distribution