“The Peanut Butter Falcon” ends the summer movie season on a high note

Korbin Breeden, Staff Writer

Tyler Nilson has crafted a contemporary story that includes a bizarre array of disparate elements: Mark Twain, fugitives, professional wrestling, and a little bit of peanut butter. Set in North Carolina, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” follows Zak (Zak Gottsagen), an unlikely hero with Down syndrome, as he dreams of becoming a professional wrestler like his hero, the Salt Water Redneck (Thomas Haden Church). Zak becomes obsessed with reaching his hero’s wrestling camp and stops at nothing in his pursuit of a new life outside of assisted living. His escape under the watch of caretaker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) sends his nursing home into a frenzy as they try to recover their beloved resident.

Meanwhile, Tyler (Shia LeBeouf), a lonely fisherman engulfed in guilt over his brother’s death, finds himself on the run after committing arson. After surviving an encounter with the local fishermen together, Zak and Tyler form an unlikely duo and embark on a journey south in hopes of a fresh start. Tyler insists that his time with Zak ends once they reach wrestling camp, but after miles of walking, begins to realize that Zak is exactly what he needs in his life. With their newfound friendship, Zak and Tyler create handshakes, learn how to wrestle, and so much more. 

The film identifies the harsh reality of life, surrounding the necessity of defining oneself. The Peanut Butter Falcon, Zak’s self-proclaimed pro wrestling character, is not only a dream, but an alter ego which gives him the ability to live freely. For those looking for a heartwarming, feel-good movie, this film will not disappoint. However, be warned that the story moves slowly. The rich character development requires time, and scenes are often extended to draw out a much more intimate setting. Despite the film’s simple plotline, it leaves plenty of room for the characters to define themselves and leave an impact on the audience. Zak Gottsagen and Shia LeBeouf’s humorous and realistic characters alone are worthy of applause. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz have created a script full of one-liners and monologues that set a clear tone for the entire movie. Nilson, a North Carolina native, brings the South to life through his wide range of characters with unique dispositions and perspectives. In addition, the work of cinematographer Nigel Bluck provides an eye-popping experience as the protagonists travel down the coast. 

Audiences will appreciate this film more if they openly accept it for what it is: a raw examination of life. While imperfect, “The Peanut Butter Falcon” provides just enough development to leave viewers satisfied. The summer season has been a rollercoaster for moviegoers, and this film ends the ride on a high note. The simply random storyline allows for a unique balance of humorous encounters and intense moments of reflection. Zak, Eleanor, Tyler, and even the Salt Water Redneck’s different circumstances allow for a wide range of individuals to relate to the movie, and that is the beauty of it: a story of life and the ups and downs that come along the way.