Ellie Hogrebe, Staff Writer
It is not often that I see a trailer for a movie I know absolutely nothing about and think “I have to see that.” At best, I might want to see it at some indefinite point in the future. Usually when there is a movie that I “have” to see, it is part of a series that I know and love or an adaption of a book I enjoy. When I first saw the trailer for “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” however, I wanted to watch it as soon as I got the chance.
“The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows Zak, a young man with Down syndrome who lives in a North Carolina nursing home because he has no family to take care of him. Zak is played by Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down syndrome. Obsessed with an old videotape featuring the Salt-Water Redneck, a professional wrestler who encourages viewers to attend his wrestling school, Zak’s greatest wish is to do just that. The events of the film are set into motion when Zak finally manages to pull off an escape from the nursing home and his well-meaning caretaker Eleanor, who is portrayed by Dakota Johnson.
As a person with Down syndrome who has never been by himself in the world before, Zak is fortunate to cross paths with Tyler, a troubled loner played by Shia LaBeouf, whose life is spiraling toward disaster after a family tragedy. Tyler has the street smarts to help Zak navigate the world outside the nursing home, and Zak might just have enough simple, genuine goodness to pull Tyler from the dark road he is headed down. The unlikely pair becomes a trio when
Eleanor tracks them down and disobeys orders from her superiors in order to help bring Zak to the wrestling school of the Salt-Water Redneck.
It was a pleasure to watch this film. Part of its charm comes from the fact that it is a unique, standalone movie made in a time when every movie seems to be some sort of sequel, spin-off, reboot or remake of something else. It is a simple, touching film that tells a story about courage, kindness and the ways people can influence each other for the better.
The stand-out element of “The Peanut Butter Falcon” is the chemistry between LaBeouf and Gottsagen as Tyler and Zak. Their interactions drove the film and felt genuinely sweet and heartwarming. Some of their scenes together where they help each other confront their fears and insecurities are tear worthy. The progression of their relationship from begrudging allies to people whose relationship embodies one character’s observation that “friends are the family you choose” is a special thing to witness. LaBeouf anchors the film with his strong performance as Tyler. Initially stoic and brooding, his interactions with Zak eventually allow his lighter qualities and sense of humor to shine through.
Go see this movie. You will leave the theater with a full heart and a desire to walk back inside and watch it again. Original, simple and sincerely sweet films such as this are not made very often today. If anything, go just to find out what the phrase “peanut butter falcon” means. You will not be disappointed.