Review: Ezra | DIFF 2024

Score: B-

Director: Tony Goldwyn

Cast: Bobby Cannavale, William A. Fitzgerald, Rose Byrne, Robert De Niro

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rated: R

Ezra did not premiere at Sundance, but it feels like it should have. It's so similar to any number of episodic family dramedies that it could be easily get confused for them. The film, written by Tony Spiridakis, feels stuck in the '90s. That's not surprising since his heyday was in that decade. A time where an indie could ride good word-of-mouth and a festival premiere to a solid return on investment. But he hasn't done much since then, and his script fails to put a fresh spin on the father-son issues the movie explores.

But Ezra does have two things that make it worth recommending: its excellent cast and its raw emotion. They really sell even the most maudlin moments of the film. I frequently wanted to roll my eyes, but the seasoned pros here make you feel the pat reconciliations and admissions feel - if not wholly authentic - moving.

Bobby Cannavale, one of the most reliable screen presences of the last two decades, stars as Max, a struggling stand-up comedian. Again, we've seen this character a dozen times before. He's separated from his wife (Rose Byrne) because he blew it one too many times. But of course he tries to win her back and be the best dad possible for his autistic son. William A. Fitzgerald plays the title role, and he's sharp and funny. Its his debut and I hope he gets many more chances to show his talents, especially in roles where autism is not the focus. While it has noble intentions, the film often stops dead in its tracks to have characters pontificate and clear up misconceptions. It's useful, but this is the wrong vehicle for it.

After a series of setbacks and run-ins with the law, Ezra is forced to attend a special needs school and medicated, while Max is denied visitation. This prompts Max to impulsively kidnap his son, and take him on a cross-country road trip. It's an irrational, illogical decision, but gives them a lot of time to bond and meet friends from Max's past. When the film finally slows down at a camp in Michigan, everyone gets a chance to breathe, and it's easily the best section of the movie. Fireside chats and dinners with a counselor played by Rainn Wilson feel authentic and funny. But the film doesn't let the father-son duo rest long. It's off to another stop and another life lesson.

If you've seen the likes of The Fundamentals of Caring or The Peanut Butter Falcon, you know exactly what to expect. This is a perfectly fine movie for families (give or take a few F-bombs). It's a little rough around the edges, but warm and gooey in the center. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and your parents will probably love it. But like Max, it has a lot of unrealized potential.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.