Families as Teams: Our Review of ‘Ezra’ (2023)

Posted in Theatrical by - May 30, 2024
Families as Teams: Our Review of ‘Ezra’ (2023)

Max Bernal (Bobby Cannavale), late-night comedy writer turned stand-up comedian, is the protagonist of Tony Goldwyn’s Ezra. He’s a member of a family that includes his son (William A. Fitzgerald) who is the film’s namesake. Other members of the family include Max’s ex Jenna (Rose Byrne) and father Stan (Robert de Niro). As the film begins, all of them are trying to coexist even if they don’t all live together. Civility, though, slightly goes out of a window when an accident involving Ezra gets him into hospital. One of the doctors there thinks that Ezra is better off with antipsychotics and a special needs school. Deciding what’s best for Ezra, Max kidnaps him, making Jenna and Stan team up to find both.

Some scenes here are difficult to watch, which is understandable for a film that’s dealing with heavy topics. Max has aggression issues which he partly gets from trauma from Stan who was doing his best. He wants Ezra to be a normal kid even if the latter has an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. That conflict means that there are scenes where Ezra acts out and Max deals with the fallout. Some may argue that these scenes depict the stereotype, different from the experiences with my own ‘Asperger’s’ diagnosis. Nonetheless, everyone has their own experiences and perceptions, the ‘perception’ part may be the key word here. Ezra reminds its viewers that yes, sometimes people have no idea how they seem in front of others.

Cannavale works well with his main co-stars as well as the actors who appear in fewer scenes. One of the standouts here is Rainn Wilson, who encapsulates Ezra‘s balance between comedy and subtle drama. Other standouts include Vera Farmiga and Whoopi Goldberg. Anyway, sometimes, it feels as if what works against them is Tony Goldwyn’s slight inexperience behind the camera. Ezra is, technically, a road film, and it’s easy to capture the travellers as they experience America. There’s that one scene when Mac rashly drives through the woods which looks straight out of vintage Coen. There are also the handheld shots that, yes, are on the nose in reinforcing the film’s chaotic events. The rest of the night scenes look middle of the road and will look worse at home. 

Ezra and Max are, again, the main characters here, Max moreso to an extent that seems problematic. But then again, just because Max doesn’t have a proper medical diagnosis doesn’t mean that he’s not neuroatypical. His Gen-X approach to neuroatypical people is a bridge but some might not like his parenting style. Ezra, nonetheless, becomes an adorable, creative, normal-ish kid because of Max, or maybe despite the latter. Anyway, I bring all of this up because some viewers think that Ezra maligns Jenna but I don’t agree. If anything, she gives Ezra’s condition the name that both Max and Stan treat like a curse. The film shows the perspectives of its major characters and humanises them, as films like this should do.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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