Apparently there is a resurgence or even "comeback" for Shia LaBeouf in some film circles which, well, OK I guess. But there has been some praise for his work bandied about in Honey Boy but also The Peanut Butter Falcon, which was a film that quietly came and went to a fair amount of adulation earlier in 2019 and hopefully will see a similar resurgence now that it's on video and on demand.
The film is written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz, and LaBeouf plays Tyler, a boat hand who burns some fishing gear of Duncan's (John Hawkes, The Sessions) and flees. Tyler runs into Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a young person with Down Syndrome who continually tries to run away from his care facility and caretaker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson, Bad Times at the El Royale). Zak has dreams of becoming a pro wrestler and watches a promotional reel of a wrestling school hundreds of times to boot. Zak and Tyler team up with the goal of Tyler getting Zak to the school, while Tyler gets to a fishing outlet.
The film sets things up pretty quickly to get to the main focus of the story, which is Tyler and Zak's friendship. And both are surprises! I think there has been some praise heaped upon Shia for his work, but the film is not a showcase for him, he just happens to be in it and acting pretty well. And when Gottsagen has to carry the film, he does just as well. The friendship that the forms between the two feels genuine and rooted. The last act of the film feels a little bit of a throwaway and not as much thought put into it, and you will see why as things unfold and move to an end point. But the feelings both have for each other just come off so well. Tyler is a lost person, and as you learn more about him and his patience for and devotion to Zak is even more touching.
LaBeouf is good and Gottsagen does well to try to match him stride for stride, and the ensemble is doubly spot on. Johnson's role is somewhat topical but she puts some effort into it, Bruce Dern (Dakota Johnson, Nebraska) as Zak's roommate was a pleasant surprise, as are three other people integral to the story; Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) and retired wrestlers Jake Roberts and Mick Foley are welcome treats as well, doing what is asked of them nicely and leaving you with a smile on your face when they are done onscreen. Come to think of it, the film itself leaves you smiling.
It's not too often that a film comes in, leaning on its Mark Twain-influenced story and dares you to not be charmed by it, but The Peanut Butter Falcon not only clears this bar with little difficulty, but allows you to go along for the ride to laugh, cry and revel in the authenticity of a relationship between two neglected souls. I haven't seen LaBeouf's other 2019 joint to see if he is back, ever left, etc., but he turns in as earnest a performance as I've seen from him in years, and this was a welcome chance to see him work against another fascinating dramatic voice. If he's doing more work like this, I look forward to what the next one brings.The Blu-ray
Presented in high definition using an AVC encode, this 2.39:1 widescreen version of the film looks impressive. There are many shots during magic hour in the Georgia (faux North Carolina) shores, and the color palette of blues, greens and browns looks natural, as do the images during the nighttime sequences and bonfire, and in flashbacks. Flesh tones are natural and the image looks as natural as production values allow. Lionsgate produces a charmer in this release.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround for the film, which gets a chance to show off more than you would expect. The film gets a chance to show off some dynamic action on the water (Zak having to avoid a larger fishing ship being an early chance), and there is a nice variety of music that helps accentuate the dynamic range of the soundtrack. Outside noise is natural in the satellite channels and communicates convincing immersion, and dialogue sounds natural in the front of the theater. All in all a nice presentation by Lionsgate.Extras:
Not too much unfortunately. A six-minute making of on the film covers the idea for the movie, how the cast got to it, and their thoughts on the actor. A stills gallery and trailer (2:38) accompany the disc and digital code.Final Thoughts:
In The Peanut Butter Falcon, you get a warm and enjoyable film, perhaps one of the best of 2019, with a film full of earnest, devoted performances by familiar and anonymous faces. Technically the film looks and sounds good, and the lack of decent extras are a bit of a down note, but it doesn't distract from a 97 minute, purely enjoyable film experience, that everyone should experience as soon as possible.