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Review: Ezra (2024)

Ezra (2024)

Directed by: Tony Goldwyn

Premise: A standup comedian (Bobby Cannavale) violates a court order and takes his autistic son (William A. Fitzgerald) on a cross-country road trip for an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The comedian’s father and estranged wife (Robert De Niro and Rose Byrne) follow.

What Works: Ezra is primarily about the difficulty of being a parent and specifically the challenges of raising an autistic child. There is a throughline between the father, the grandfather, and the son; they have a shared temperament and parallel behaviors. The juxtaposition of multiple generations reveals differing conceptions of masculinity. The story complicates this; the grandfather comes from a different frame of reference but even he is aware of his own mistakes and the father gradually realizes the way he relates to his autistic son doesn’t accept the boy for who he is. At the same time, parents and others opt for appeasement instead of guiding Ezra toward growth. Therein the filmmakers do something interesting. Movies about neurodivergent and disabled characters tend to use these people as props for the protagonist’s redemption. Ezra rebukes that idea. The father refers to his autistic son as a “good luck charm” and spends the film fussing about how to make the boy “normal.” Ultimately it is the father who has to recognize his own flaws and the way he’s channeling his own anxieties through his son. The boy is a full-fledged character with his own story. William A. Fitzgerald is quite good in the title role. Although the writing makes Ezra a glib, Hollywood version of a pre-teen, the boy has his own identity and interior life and Fitzgerald gives the character humanity. Also impressive are Bobby Cannavale as the standup comedian and Robert De Niro as the grandfather. There is a historic tension between them; it’s implied there was an incident years ago that led the grandmother to walk out on the family. The film never fully explains this and it doesn’t have to. Attentive viewers can piece together what probably happened and Cannavale and De Niro play this terrifically.

What Doesn’t: Some of the plotting doesn’t make sense. When the mother files a police report she inadvertently triggers an Amber Alert and the father and son appear on news broadcasts throughout their cross-country drive. Somehow the staff at Jimmy Kimmel Live! aren’t aware of that and don’t cancel the comedian’s appearance even when he’s a wanted criminal. Ezra has a Hollywood ending. It’s a mostly happy and tidy conclusion that resolves everything a little too easily.

Bottom Line: Ezra is a well-made family drama. The plotting is a little wobbly with some obvious inconsistencies but the heart of the film is its intergenerational relationships between fathers and sons and that aspect of the film works.

Episode: #1000 (June 16, 2024)