The sweet nature of The Peanut Butter Falcon will appeal to everyone with a heart. It won the prestigious Audience Award for Narrative Spotlight at SXSW Film Festival of 2019, and theater-goers stand up and cheer at the end of advanced screenings.
That rascal of an actor, Shia LaBeouf, shows he’s human in his portrayal of a rebel outlaw in this tale of love, adventure, friendship, and caring. LaBeouf, adding to his legendary rebellious nature, was arrested for public drunkeness while making the film in Savannah. The incident only enhanced his already bad-boy image. It’s perfect for the part of Tyler in the film.
La Boeuf’s Tyler is a down and out fisherman who is on the ropes financially and can’t make a living. He steals other people’s lobster traps and gets into a battle with ornery Duncan, sort of the lord of the docks. Duncan is played by the excellent John Hawkes (Oscar® nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Winter’s Bone (2010) and a regular on TV’s “Deadwood”). Duncan is “meaner than a junk-yard dog,” as sung by Jim Croce on ”Bad Bad Leroy Brown.” He’s out to get Tyler and he means to kill him. Hawkes has the perfect mean-looking face with a witch-like nose that scares you. Grrrr!
Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is a real young man in his early twenties with Down Syndrome who hates being in a confined medical facility where lovely Eleanor (a charming Dakota Johnson) looks after him. Zak’s room-mate is the mischievous and cantankerous old coot Carl, played by actor Bruce Dern with his usual zest. Dern is making a career out of playing nutty old guys as in the recent Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He bonds with Zak and helps him achieve some freedom. Zak manages to get out of the facility and is on his way to see his hero, TV wrestler Salt Water Redneck (a hilarious Thomas Haden Church). He wants to learn to wrestle by his hero.
The two mismatched renegades meet in the swamps of Savannah and Zak attaches himself to Tyler. Naturally, Tyler doesn’t want anything to do with Zak and doesn’t need a companion. He’s on the run and doesn’t want Zak to drag him down.
Impossible to get rid of, Zak becomes a buddy and Tyler shows a warm side to his gruff exterior by taking Zak under his wing. The two bond like brothers. Tyler teaches Zak to swim and the two guys have a great time together. Zak is especially endearing and frequently funny. Tyler is the big brother Zak never had as his family abandoned him. The two might be on the lam, but that won’t prevent them from “living.”
Dakota Johnson has the tough role of being authoritative with Zak and yet sympathetic to his plight. She does show a heart and genuinely loves Zak, despite his will to leave the medical facility where Eleanor is in charge of him. Johnson redeems herself from her dreadful role in the Fifty Shades of Grey potboilers.
Shia LaBoeuf shines as the gruffly handsome Tyler. He emerges as a leading man for sure, as his charisma vibrates through his torn t-shirts and raggedy shorts. It is apparent he will emerge as a top choice for romantic roles in the future. He’s up for action as well, and this film provides plenty of intrigue and excitement as the Huckleberry Finn characters go on the road. Will they get away from their hunters and survive? We can’t reveal the ending, but we can say this is the feel- good movie of the year.
The Peanut Butter Falcon just may be the sleeper hit of 2019!
(Released by Roadside Attractions and rated “PG-13” by MPAA.)