The Peanut Butter Falcon
Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern, John Hawkes
A young boy with Down syndrome runs away to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional wrestler in this good-natured, heartfelt adventure comedy-drama, a modern-day spin on Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from writer/director duo Tyler Nilson and Michael Shwartz and the producers of Little Miss Sunshine.
Zak (performer, teacher and disability advocate Zack Gottsagen, around whom the film was crafted) lives in a nursing home but dreams of becoming a professional wrestler. Running away in hopes of reaching the wrestling school of his idol, the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church), he meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a small time outlaw, on the road – and together they team up, winding through deltas, eluding capture, drinking whisky, finding God, catching fish, and convincing Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), a kind nursing home employee charged with Zak’s return, to join them.
Shot on location in Georgia, The Peanut Butter Falcon draws considerable power from the off-the-grid rural south it depicts, as well as Gottsagen and LaBeouf’s committed performances and an excellent wider cast that includes Bruce Dern, John Hawks and Jon Bernthal. Emotive even as it keeps sentimentality at bay, it feels refreshingly modern and bracingly optimistic, a contemporary road-movie riff on a classic American story.