Released: 30th January
Seen: 23rd August
Remember way back when the Oscars happened? That night where Parasite won all the awards, making it the last good day of 2020? Well, one moment during that ceremony that got a lot of praise was when Shia Labeouf and Zack Gottsagen came out to present the award for Best Short Film, notably because Gottsagen became the first person with Down syndrome to present an academy award.
They were paired together because their movie, The Peanut Butter Falcon, had gotten a lot of buzz and was just finishing up it’s US run… and around the 30th of January it got released in Australia meaning it’s a 2020 movie for me. Sure I’m still very late to seeing it (because it came down here just before the cinemas closed so I missed it) but hey, better late than never when it comes to a movie this charming.
The Peanut Butter Falcon borrows heavily from the story of Huckleberry Finn but uses that structure to tell the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen). Zak lives in an assisted living home since his family is no longer in the picture. However, staying in an assisted living facility would get in the way of Zak’s dream of becoming a professional wrestler and so, with the help of his elderly roommate, Zak escapes the facility and ends up sleeping in a boat that’s tied to a dock. That boat belongs to a man named Tyler who, the next morning, pisses off a couple of crab fisherman and escapes in his boat and accidentally brings Zak with him. From there the two embark on an adventure together, trying to get to a wrestling school that Zak is obsessed with. Meanwhile a worker from the assisted living home, Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) is trying to find Zak so she can bring him back to where she believes he’ll be safe.
To call The Peanut Butter Falcon charming would be an understatement. This is a big bowl of sweetness that I needed to be injected right into my veins. Every single scene with Zak and Tyler trying to get along and slowly creating this brotherhood was heartwarming, every time Tyler would stand up to defend Zak against people who treated him like crap made me want to applaud.
You almost instantly fall in love with these characters and just want to see them get out the other side of this movie with everything they want. Even Eleanor, whose entire job is to bring Zak back to somewhere he doesn’t want to be, is lovable by nature of her making it clear that she’s trying her best to help within a system that isn’t good at helping those with Down syndrome.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a tale of a chosen family, wonderfully told through simple moments of learning a cool handshake or talking about wrestling. With every passing moment this little brotherhood becomes more and more fascinating, aided by a career best performance by Shia and a fantastic performance by Zack who basically carries the entire movie.
The two of them have mountains of chemistry that makes the entire experience of watching the film a delight. You want to spend time with these characters, explore their relationship and see what happens to them. When Zak caught a fish with his bare hands, I had to fight the urge to cheer out loud because it was such a triumphant moment. When the main characters almost get run over by a boat, I caught myself holding my breath in fear of what might happen. It’s not voluntary, they’re so damn likable that there is no choice but to want to witness them succeeding.
The Peanut Butter Falcon is one of the easiest viewing experiences I’ve had all year, and definitely one of the most charming. It’s a fun adventure film starring two fascinating characters that make you sit up straight, determined to see this trip through to its conclusion.