Ezra Review

Tony Goldwyn’s father-son autism story, Ezra, is a feel-good movie that avoids cheap sentimentality in favor of realism.

Last Updated on June 3, 2024

Ezra review

PLOT: A combative stand-up comedian (Bobby Cannavale) in a messy custody battle kidnaps his autistic son to keep him from being heavily medicated and placed in a special school.

REVIEW: Tony Goldwyn’s Ezra is a warm-hearted father-son tale that tries to depict the challenges of raising an autistic child in an authentic way. The film was written by Tony Spiridakis, who has an autistic son of his own, while William Fitzgerald, who plays the title role, is on the spectrum. It’s realistic with some terrific performances from the ensemble cast, including Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Goldwyn himself, and Robert DeNiro (in a meatier role than usual).

The film is a great showcase for Cannavale, who’s pretty convincing as a somewhat confrontational comic who mines his own fractured personal life for material. In it, his character, Max, is reeling from a bitter divorce from his wife, Jenna (Rose Byrne), who he still loves but can’t see eye-to-eye with on Ezra’s care. For Max, Ezra needs to be with other kids, unmedicated, while Jenna thinks medication and a special school are the way to go. To the movie’s credit, neither parent is presented as “wrong”, with both depicted as loving and simply trying to do what they think is best. Even Jenna’s slick new boyfriend, a lawyer played by Goldwyn, is presented as an ultimately good person.

While one might think a movie about an estranged parent kidnapping his son might not make for feel-good-fare, you never doubt Max’s desire to do the best he can for his son, even if he doesn’t really know what that might be. In the film, he takes his son on the road, with him heading for LA, where he’s been promised a spot on The Jimmy Kimmel Show, which is complicated by the fact that he’s now technically a fugitive from the law. The cast is peppered with many familiar faces, including Whoopi Goldberg as Max’a agent, Rainn Wilson as a comedian friend who shelters him, and Vera Farmiga as a potential love interest.

ezra movie review

Again, the good thing about Ezra is that there are no bad guys. Rose Byrne’s Jenna doesn’t want Max to end up arrested, so she and his father, Stan (DeNiro), hit the road in the hope of finding them before the cops do. When DeNiro shows up in movies like this, often his roles are limited to a few scenes, but he has a pretty meaty part as Max’s formerly aggressive dad, who’s trying to make up for his own failings as a father by being there for his son.

While it all sounds schmaltzy, the movie actually isn’t at all. Goldwyn is probably still best known as an actor, but he’s been directing since the nineties and can tell a sweet story in a way that’s not overly mawkish. With autistic actors and a script by the actual father of an autistic child, this feels like a film made by people who actually know what they’re talking about. In the title role, Fitzgerald doesn’t play Ezra as this magical, “perfect” child who needs to be protected. The film’s message is that no, Ezra isn’t perfect; he’s just a kid and can be a handful. But he deserves to be treated with dignity, the same as any other kid. That’s ultimately the movie’s message, which Goldwyn presents in a focused, nuanced way. There’s probably a lame Hollywood version of this movie that could have been made, but this one gives the story some much-needed edge without promising everything will be tied up in a neat little bow by the time the credits roll. 

ezra movie review




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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.