This time of year we typical run into a lull of new and must see movies because we have just finished with the Summer Movie season and are anticipating the Fall/Halloween season. So, as I was looking at the new movies that were released this past week and I was really disappointed with my choices. Neither of my two new choices really seemed to be all that good or interesting. I am not a big fan of Shia LaBeouf ever since he was in the Transformers movies, so I didn’t really want to see Peanut Butter Falcon in which he stars. However it was the only film that fit my schedule, so reluctantly I went and was pleasantly surprised.
Peanut Butter Falcon follows the story of Zak who is a young man with Down’s Syndrome who is fleeing from his current living situation, of being stuck in a retirement center, to become a professional wrestler. Zack Gottsagen who plays Zak also has Down’s Syndrome. If you are expecting that they treat Zak with kids gloves in this movie, you would be sadly mistaken. The writer and director duo of Tyler Nilson and Mark Schwartz pull no punches as Zak navigates his escape from the retirement center to wrestling in his first wrestling match. People treat Zak pretty poorly not only in the use of the labels they call him but also in what they expect he can and can’t do. Gottsagen does a great job is his performance and it was his authentic, joy filled performance that really made this film stand out for me.
I was also really impressed with Nilson and Schwartz command of the screen. They had some great cinematography that showcased the rivers and bayous of the South. Their writing featured some interesting characters and their use of tension helped keep the film from dragging. I also liked how they used the theme of being lost and how they showed different ways we deal with loss through each of the different characters on screen. It was really nice to see a theme explored in some subtle and nuanced ways rather than the rolling pin some filmmakers use to beat us over the head with. Believe it or not, this was their first feature film and I am pretty excited too see what their next project will be.
Again Zack Gottsagen performance really made the movie for me and he had great chemistry with Shia LaBeouf. I know this is short sighted but I didn’t think I would ever like a character that Shia LaBeouf would play. However, I was really impressed with how he handled his character and the depth he added to his performance. Dakota Johnson also puts in a solid performance as the one who is charged with tracking Zak down.
As much as I liked the movie, there were a couple of scenes that were a little too sugar coated for me or too predictable in a boring type of way. These scenes don’t happen too often and I think most people wouldn’t even notice them. But for me it was enough to drop the film a half a letter grade. However, I would definitely go see this one in theaters because I think film making likes this needs good support, to show Hollywood we like films other than the typical action/thriller/horror/ flicks.
Overall I give this movie a B (A Good Movie). I think this movie was a nice change of pace from all the action, adventure, thriller movies that have come out over the summer. This film dives into three interesting characters, who are all well played by their respective actors. I especially think Zack Gottsagen’s performance was top notch. It also speaks to the themes of how people deal with loss as well as labels. Peanut Butter Falcon really reminded me of a Mark Twain type of story. It does have some sacrine sweet moments but overall I would recommend going to see this well done film.
Peanut Butter Falcon is rated PG-13 for violence, language, intense scenes, and alcohol and smoking use. Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz directed and wrote the screenplay. This film stars Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, and Zac Gottsagen.