Review: ‘Ezra’

Bobby Cannavale, Robert De Niro, And Rose Byrne Struggle Raising A Child With Autism

There’s a lot that Ezra does right. The new film from actor and director Tony Goldwyn centers on a family whose son is on the autism spectrum. From casting a young actor with the same diagnosis to showing the joys and hardships parents go through when raising a neurodivergent child, Goldwyn and his team clearly put a lot of hard work and effort into telling this story as authentically as possible. It’s writer Tony Spiridakis’ story that weighs down this touching yet flashy depiction of autism.   

Bobby Cannavale plays Max, a dedicated father to Ezra (newcomer William A. Fitzgerald), whose career has taken a backseat due to his anger issues and his child’s needs. He struggles to reconnect with his ex-wife, Jenna (Rose Byrne) who is more open to trying the various therapies and alternative schooling that Ezra’s teachers and doctors recommend. Max lives with his father (Robert De Niro) while Jenna seems to be moving on with dickish lawyer Bruce (Tony Goldwyn).

After Ezra gets expelled for causing a mob at his school, he overhears Bruce joking about killing Max and takes the jab seriously. When he runs out into the night to warn his father, he gets hit by a car. When the doctors recommend medicating and sending him to a special school Max loses his cool and assaults the doctor which results in him being temporarily prohibited from seeing Ezra. Ultimately, Max decides to defy the order and take Ezra on a cross-country trip that not only results in a stronger bond between the two but helps him understand his son and himself better. 

The biggest issue with Ezra is that there are too many inciting incidents to get the plot moving. From the expulsion to the accident to a court order to a kidnapping pursuit, there are too many factors that end up dragging the story and Max’s character down in the process. If Goldwyn and Spiridakis wanted to make a father-and-son road trip movie where the latter has autism, then they could have done that without all the legal drama. It takes away from the magic of Cannavale and Fitzgerald.

The onscreen father and son duo are a dream team, especially in the quiet moments. Cannavale and Goldwyn know exactly how to amplify Fitzgerald’s comedic timing. He clearly felt safe on set, which can’t even be said for performances from neurotypical child actors, and his chemistry with every adult he comes into contact with is electric. Rose Byrne, who refreshingly isn’t demonized by Spiridakis’ script, is tender with him in a way only a mother can be. Rainn Wilson, who shows up as an old comedy friend of Max’s, basically plays himself but bounces off of Fitzgerald beautifully. 

Whoopi Goldberg and Vera Farmiga also show up for a few scenes. The stars came out for Goldwyn and Spiridakis, yet the Hollywood treatment may not have been the best way to tell this story. If the plot was more stripped down and the stakes less unneedingly high, Ezra would have been an indie darling.

Watch the trailer below. Ezra is playing in theaters.

A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
ezra-review-ezraTony Goldwyn's is a sweet and moving story of father and son dealing with the latter's autism. If only it wasn't buried under useless story conditions.