Ezra – Film Review

The film opens with a stand-up comedy routine that sets the stage for the challenges faced by a separated parents’ with an autistic son. The eponymous Ezra (played grippingly by William A. Fitzgerald) is a quick and witty 11 year old, whose diagnosis is far more troubling for his parents.

Tony Goldwyn directs the stellar cast of Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga,
Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson and Robert De Niro. Goldwyn is also in front of the camera as the mother’s boyfriend, a small but pivotal role.

As a stand-up comedian, the father Max (Cannavale) certainly talks truth to power in much the same way that Lenny Bruce did. The interplay between Cannavale and just about every other cast member is mesmerizing. Especially great is seeing De Niro and Cannavale on the screen together. DeNiro is again playing a blue collar worker with father-son issues; he did so admirably in A Bronx Tale opposite Chazz Palminteri. (Indeed, Palminteri gets a thank you in the end credits here).

In Ezra, DeNiro’s mostly restrained violence references the explosive power of which we know his prior film characters are far more capable.

Robert DeNiro, Bobby Cannavale and William A. Fitzgerald

As the plot evolves into a road film, the escalating tensions make everything edgier. We see the parent-child relationship assayed across two generations.

Goldwyn harnesses the proceedings with a steady hand, providing a solid balance between the competing and compelling perspectives of Ezra’s separated parents. As the mother, Byrne provides a compelling counterpoint to Max’s more impulsive strategies.

The plot evolves slowly, logically and then quickly, furiously and irrevocably.

As Max pulls his son across the blue highways of America, they both grow and bond in a way that would have been impossible at home in New York City. Their encounters with several different characters provide a counterpoint for the father and son to each reassess their perspectives. In turn, they grow closer. A touching and all to brief scene between Ezra and a horse is a particularly delicate moment.

Oblique film and cultural references are sprinkled throughout.

Some choice musical placements from Andrew Bird, Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band and Jim James supplement the title track by Rae Isla.

All in, this is another film directed by Goldwyn with a deft touch.

Opens May 31, trailer here.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.