This is a movie review of Peanut Butter Falcon. There are spoilers in it. Sort of. Not really. But sort of.
Peanut Butter Falcon
Peanut Butter Falcon is fundamentally a story of adventure and friendship, of healing and connection.
A lot of people and places are talking about this movie, so I thought I’d just cut the chase and tell you why you should not watch it, or which type of person would not enjoy it.
You should NOT watch Peanut Butter Falcon if:
1. You Really Like Inspiration Porn
Inspiration Porn is when people with disabilities are held up as inspirations without any intrinsic regard to what they are supposed to be admired for. Awesome for just existing, marvelous for leaving the house in their wheelchair, a superstar for going to work, living life like a human being!
People who dig Inspiration Porn tend to be the type who also dig treacly, sentimental “feel good” flicks that hold about as much substance as cotton candy. All sugar rush, no fill, and end up rotting your teeth, just as inspiration porn rots authentic perceptions of those of us with disabilities.
Peanut Butter Falcon isn’t about any of that. It is a remarkable feat of a movie, taking a story that could be a cliche and weaving it with solid acting, tight cinematography and brilliant dialogue.
This movie takes raw moments and makes them real. It is feel good, but it’s health-food feel good, all granola crunch that leaves you full, with the lingering taste of deliciousness seeping around your brain.
2. You Don’t Care About Representation
If you don’t care about representation in movies – that is, disabled actors playing disabled roles (African American actors playing roles for African Americans, Asians playing parts for Asians and so forth), this movie is not for you.
This movie has Zack Gottsagen, a real actor with Down syndrome, playing the lead role.
Gottsagen gives the movie an authenticity that it would otherwise not have.
The conversation about “representation” in cinema often excludes the disabled. Able-bodied actors play disabled characters all the time, and sometimes win Oscars for it. This is not to say that these aren’t good or empathetic performances, but all you have to do is watch Gottsagen’s performance to see what we are missing when we discount the complaints of the disabled community in re: representation. It is inconceivable to imagine an able-bodied “name” playing this role and bringing to it even half of what Gottsagen does naturally.
– Sheila O’Malley from RogerEbert.com
3. You Haven’t Grappled with Healing
This movie has a lot that will touch most people: the humor alone in it is enough to make it a crowd pleaser. Then the spot-on choice of locations, with the world of southern fishing, waterways, shrimp trollies.
I also thought there is a large element of healing in Peanut Butter Falcon, that the movie is at it’s core one of healing and connection.
The thread of healing doesn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t want to go or that if you haven’t grappled with healing yourself you wouldn’t want to go; it’s more that you will get an extra appreciation for the story if you have tread that path yourself.
I was not expecting that in the movie. It took me completely by surprise.
Since in my own daily life, I try and make sense of this world without my brother, I would up really crying in the movie with the (well chosen, well-placed) flashbacks.
Shia LaBeouf plays this beautifully.
Those of us in the Down syndrome community have been WAITING FOR THIS MOVIE!!
We hunger for more stories with adults with Down syndrome, we want to see these movies, we NEED them. As the theatre I was in fully participated in this movie in ways I don’t usually see (- and I’m an avid movie-goer), I know we are not alone.
The producers consulted with Gottsagen about the story and the movie (as opposed to hiring a consultant with Down syndrome and having an able-bodied actor play the part). The result was, as I have said, a lending of authenticity that wouldn’t be possible without him. But there were also so many instances of humor and delight that I find echoed with my own child with Down syndrome!
Wrapping this up, I leave you with a short clip of her (yesterday), talking about about something that she and Zak have in common: a thorough joy of and anticipation for birthdays!
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.