Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz’s comedy drama,The Peanut Butter Falcon, is wonderfully crafted feel good movie that helped restore my faith in humanity by the end of the film. It follows Tyler (Shia LaBeouf), a man reeling from tragedy struggling to find his way and his ensuing journey as he runs into and travels along with Duncan (John Hawkes) , a young man with Down syndrome and big dreams. As they make their way, being “pursued” by Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), Duncan’s caretaker, the audience gets to see a beautiful tale of redemption, family, and tenacity in the face of adversity.
The characters in this movie are phenomenal. John Hawkes is the lifeblood of the movie and his infectious personality, sense of innocence, and intellectual maturity keep him endearing but also nuanced. He gives off a real sense of agency which is made all the better because the film is literally about how we actively strip agency away from those who are differently-abled even if we don’t realize it. In contrast to the more transparent performance of Hawkes, LaBeouf’s performance is layered. His character is multifaceted and complex, so watching him slowly open up and embrace Duncan, is rewarding and heartwarming. Dakota Johnson is terrific as a caretaker. She can go from worried to confident and back without it ever feeling weird.
The movie is also beautifully shot. There are gorgeous aerial shots showing off the scenery which helps sell the Mark Twain vibe. The shots of the raft as it floated down the river reminded me back of the images I had in my head while reading Huckleberry Finn back in middle school.
The problem with the movie is also the thing that makes the movie so heartwarming – it’s too nice. At some point, character interactions, despite being cute and happy, feel unbelievable. I would have liked to see some more rugged interactions, just so the kindness felt more realistic. It also would have helped the more serious moments in the movie feel less jarring and more tonally consistent with the comedic moments. moments
TLDR: The Peanut Butter Falcon restored my faith in humanity and forced to inspect my assumptions about people and their ability. It might feel too sweet at times, but that may be a plus if you want a movie that keeps you grinning ear to ear.
Final Rating: 9.1/10. If you need a pick me up, this movie was made for you. It’s the most touching “feel good” movie I’ve seen in a long time.