A Father-Son Journey: “Ezra” Shines Despite Bumpy Road

Craving a summer movie that’s a more heartwarming story than a CGI spectacle? Look no further than “Ezra,” now showing at your local AMC Dine-In Montclair Place 12 (2200 Montclair Plaza Lane, Montclair).

A Powerful Story, Authentically Acted

Max (Bobby Cannavale), a former comedy writer turned stand-up comic, struggles with his career and family life. His volatile temper and erratic behavior strain his relationship with his ex-wife Jenna (Rose Byrne) and their autistic son, Ezra (William Fitzgerald). Facing pressure to institutionalize Ezra, Max makes a rash decision that sets them off on a cross-country odyssey. Woven into this family drama is Max’s desperate pursuit of an audition for Jimmy Kimmel, a storyline that feels out of place.

The “audition-for-fame” plot seems superimposed on the compelling family narrative. While it serves as a catalyst for Max’s actions, it lacks the emotional depth of the family struggles. In contrast, the portrayal of the family is refreshingly nuanced. No one is a villain; everyone grapples with worry and exhaustion. Young William Fitzgerald delivers a remarkable performance as Ezra, a three-dimensional character who absorbs his parents’ anxieties. He speaks mostly in movie quotes, particularly from “The Princess Bride,” and finds comfort in routine. Cannavale captures Max’s fierce love for Ezra, often overshadowed by his explosive temper. Byrne portrays Jenna as a depleted yet caring mother, and De Niro, as Max’s father Stan, delivers a heartbreaking performance, revealing his own struggles as a parent.

The film excels in depicting the toll that worry takes on parents, pushing them to act impulsively. The script, based on writer Tony Spiridakis’ experiences with his autistic son, prioritizes authenticity. The inclusion of neurodivergent actors and crew, and feedback obtained from similar groups, adds a layer of realism.

“Ezra” doesn’t shy away from sentimentality, but it feels earned thanks to the film’s honest core. The moments of connection, especially a scene where Ezra interacts with a horse, are heartwarming. A powerful scene between Cannavale and Fitzgerald explodes with pent-up tension and worry, drawing us deeply into their struggle.

So if you are looking for a movie experience that’s both entertaining and thought-provoking “Ezra” with its laughter, tears, and unexpected connections, ultimately shines with its honest portrayal of family, love, and the challenges of neurodiversity. It’s a bumpy ride, but the destination is worth the journey.