This was truly delightful, I’ve got such a smile on my face just thinking back on it. The Peanut Butter Falcon is a lovely character-based drama that exudes so much warmth and human connection, its utterly enchanting. It reminded me of 1970s American dramas that really effected me when I was growing up, films like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, which… well, that film itself might seem an odd comparison, but films back then had such a sense of… character, that almost sneaks up on you. I’m not at all referencing any specifics in plot but more how mundane, ordinary characters on the run are shown on a journey both physical and internal, traveling through the world and meeting all sorts of memorable characters and forming deep connections. So many films nowadays get lost in the extraordinary, exalting the spectacular, and forget the truth and depth of just old-fashioned character drama. You don’t need action or spectacle, just put two interesting characters together, put them on a journey and see what happens. Watch how they react to the world around them and how the world reacts to them.
Newcomer Zack Gottsagen absolutely blew me away in the central role of Zak, a young man with Down’s syndrome who seems destined for a horrible ‘existence’ lost in institutional care until his dream of a future in the world outside is set into reality by his fellow care-home ‘inmate’ Carl (a typically brilliant, effortless Bruce Dern) who abets Zak’s bid for freedom. Once outside, Zak encounters Tyler (a shockingly good, frankly, Shia LaBeouf), somebody else who is also on the run, Tyler having wronged the wrong white-trash fishermen thugs. Tyler, consumed by self-loathing over the death of his brother, takes Zak under his wing, and through his experiences with Zak finds some kind of emotional redemption: Tyler saves Zak, Zak saves Tyler- its beautiful, really.
Over a few days as they share an adventure traveling across a deeply evocative river-basin delta of rusty old boats and abandoned economic ruin, they drink whisky, catch fish, find God, and slowly become like brothers. As well as the thugs, they are also pursued by Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) a nursing home employee who feels responsible for Zak and is trying to get him back to the nursing home before the authorities get involved. Tyler and Zak eventually convince her to join them on their little odyssey and… well, that’s about as far as I’ll go regards the plot. This film isn’t really about the plot, I mean, its all fairly predictable- its really about the relationships, the bonds between them. You don’t care about how ridiculous it all really is. Its a magical little movie.
Watching so many movies, and so many of them being bad, it can leave one really jaded, but its so great that films like this just redeem ones faith in the artform, redeem ones love for films in general. This ones wonderful, this one’s a keeper (well, I actually watched this on Netflix, but you what I mean- if this were a disc, it’d be in prime position on the shelf and returned to often). I really, really enjoyed it, this one was great.