MATTHEW LIEDKE ON FILM: 'Peanut Butter Falcon' is an endearing folk journey
"The Peanut Butter Falcon" is a movie that feels like a blast from the past, with a story reminiscent of Mark Twain.
Shia LaBeouf stars as Tyler, a young man who's experienced tragedy and now is just trying to survive as a fisherman in the South. Unfortunately, that plan isn't working out too well, as he finds himself in trouble with some of the other staff.
Meanwhile, the character Zak, played by Zack Gottsagen, is a young man with down syndrome who is living at a retirement home. He's forced to live there as he has no family and the home is the only care facility in the county. Not content with staying and with a dream of being a professional wrestler, though, Zak leaves the home in the night and along the way, he meets Tyler. After meeting, the two decide to travel together, with a goal of getting Zak to meet a famous pro wrestler.
"Falcon" is definitely one of 2019's top feel good movies thanks to a few reasons. One aspect powering the picture is the setting itself. The movie features a down-to-Earth, southern charm that feels tranquil and peaceful. Moments of the lead duo's travels, whether they be on land or by water, are well complemented by the landscapes.
While the movie doesn't include a large amount of grandiose shots of the American southeast, there is calming serenity from the ground on which the protagonists walk.
The same can be said for most of the movie's story. At its core, "Falcon" is a road movie of getting from point A to B and the simplicity allows for a deep focus on the endearing friendship between Tyler and Zak.
Their moments together are heartwarming, as an audience gets to see Tyler learn to be more open and happy again while Zak builds confidence in himself. It makes for an enjoyable experience.
This is very much thanks to fantastic performances from LaBeouf and Gottsagen. LaBeouf should be able to have a career rebound with his fantastic work here portraying a complex, traumatized character in convincing fashion. Gottsagen, meanwhile, is excellent in his performance on screen, giving his character plenty of life and having a clear screen presence.
The supporting cast is pretty solid, too. Bruce Dern is featured for a limited time but makes a good mark while Dakota Johnson is great in an expanded role as Zak's caretaker, Eleanor. Although, the direction the movie takes with her character seemed like a misstep.
This represents a larger issue in the movie, too. The movie's narrative structure isn't as strong as one would hope, especially in the third act where the film takes some poor turns. From a story perspective, there's also a sense that the movie didn't really require true antagonists, but the film still featured a duo chasing after Tyler.
These detriments hold "Falcon" back from soaring with the best of the year. However, it's still overall a very strong picture thanks to the friendship at its center. 3.85 out of 5.