From HBO’s“Succession” to A24’s “Beef,” recent shows have started exploring the themes of intergenerational trauma and its irreparable damage to children. Tony Goldwyn’s “Ezra” (2023) explores similar themes but through a heartfelt comedy-drama that revolves around a father’s parenting struggles. Bobby Cannavale stars as a divorced father to an autistic child. While going through a rough patch in his career, he tries to control all the things in his life, including his son’s condition. The film’s screenwriter, Tony Spiridakis, notes that the film was borne out of his emotional struggles while he felt the need to ‘fix’ his son’s condition.

Spoilers Ahead

Ezra (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

“Ezra” follows a struggling stand-up comedian as he hopes to revive his comedic career while trying to help his autistic son in his daily life. As the film progresses, the comedian, his ex-wife, his father, and the kid – all go through their own journey of emotional growth.

What happens in the Bobby Cannavale starrer ‘Ezra’?

Directed by Tony Goldwyn, “Ezra” follows Max Brandel (Bobby Cannavale), a former comedy writer and now a struggling stand-up comedian, who raises his autistic son, Ezra (William Fitzgerald), with his ex-wife, Jenna (Rose Byrne). After their separation, he moved back with his father, Stan (Robert De Niro), who once was a gourmet chef. Seeing Max’s financial struggles, Stan advises him to take up a job as a doorman. But Max rejects that. He and Jenna have different parenting philosophies, which often results in their arguments. Ezra screams if someone tries to touch him and has occasional emotional outbursts.

Jenna understands that they need to take care of Ezra and be mindful of their words & actions around him. However, Max seems determined in wanting to fix his son’s condition. So, he takes Ezra to his stand-up sets as his good luck charm and feeds him movies and TV shows. Due to his condition, Ezra remains hyper-fixated on these things. One day, it results in him potentially harming other kids because Max decided to watch “Breaking Bad” with him. Regardless, he lets Ezra join him in his stand-up spot, where a talent scout for Jimmy Kimmel Live, Robert Segal (Geoffrey Owens), is in the audience.

Ezra’s Accident

After getting fired from Conan’s show, Max hopes to get another job. So, Kimmel’s show is a big opportunity for him. But after his performance, when Robert approaches him, Ezra makes a joke without understanding the social cues. So, Max feels he lost his golden chance. Regardless, he takes Ezra back to Jenna’s house. After Max leaves, Ezra overhears his mother’s lawyer boyfriend, Bruce (Tony Goldwyn) making an offhand comment about beating Max up. Ezra takes Bruce’s words literally and decides to warn Max about it. On the road, he accidentally gets in front of a taxi for being scared by a barking dog, and gets into an accident. Later, in the hospital, the doctor assumes that Ezra was trying to hurt himself.

Ezra (2023) Movie Review, Ending Explained & Themes Analysed
A still from “Ezra” (2023)

Since Ezra also had issues in school with inadvertently putting himself or others in danger, the doctor wants him to be transferred to a special-needs school. He offers medication for Ezra, which Max assumes is just a brand promotion. Since Max takes out his anger on the doctor, he gets put in jail. Bruce bails him out but with a restraining order, which stops him from being anywhere near Ezra for three months. Later, while driving Max back home, Stan speaks insensitively with Max despite his delicate situation. Stan gets angry at Max for blaming him for the way he is. That’s the first time we see the root of Max’s anger issues.

Ezra & Max’s Road Trip

Max doesn’t want Ezra to be put in a special-needs school or to be treated any differently. But despite his seemingly noble intention, he forgets to take care of Ezra’s emotional needs. After getting hit by a restraining order, Max gets up on a stage to perform his stand-up routine but abruptly leaves. Then, he breaks into Jenna’s house and takes Ezra with him. Legally, in his situation, it is deemed ‘kidnapping.’ But Max doesn’t care about it. He doesn’t want to lose control of this part of his life. So, he takes Ezra on a road trip.

On the way, Max stops by a diner and forgets to mention Ezra’s issue with the bananas. So, Ezra suddenly has trouble breathing. Max takes Ezra to the bathroom and explains what the doctors said : Ezra isn’t allergic to bananas. In this situation, Max isn’t concerned about Ezra’s internal fear. During the further drive, Ezra reveals that he ran on the street to warn Max about Bruce. Soon after, Max’s manager, Jane (Whoopi Goldberg), calls to inform him about his confirmed stand-up spot on Kimmel’s show. Turns out, when Max bombed his set, she shot a video and sent that clip to the show producers, who agreed to give him a spot.

Max’s Parenting Struggles

In a motel, Ezra turns the water temperature pretty high and almost burns his skin. Back home, Jenna usually sets the temperature. So, Ezra isn’t used to doing it himself. But Max wonders why Ezra didn’t understand it was boiling. Regardless, he takes Ezra to his childhood friend, Nick’s (Rainn Wilson) house. There, Ezra asks for a plastic spoon. Nick agrees to offer it, But Max insists Ezra should care about the environment and be okay with a metal spoon. Since Ezra makes a scene, they all eventually resort to eating food with their hands. Throughout the journey, Max tries to turn Ezra into something he is not without paying attention to why he behaves the way he does.

Back in Jersey, the police and child services decide to take a step against Max’s reckless actions. Jenna insists that they should respond quietly for Ezra’s sake. But the authorities decide to send out an Amber alert across the country for Ezra. So, Jenna gets worried and meets Stan, who realizes Max is at Nick’s. With Jenna, Stan drives to bring Ezra home before the police find Max. By the time they reach  Nick’s home, Max leaves for LA with Ezra. Nick reveals that Max has booked a spot for Kimmel’s show and is driving to LA. Meanwhile, on their drive through the dark woods to avoid cops, Ezra has a panic attack and runs out of the car. By then, he has gotten tired of Max’s behaviour, So, he berates Max for not being the caring parent he is supposed to be.

The Old Wounds

While Max is in the woods, Stan calls him to learn about Ezra’s outburst. He insists Max shouldn’t hit his son but doesn’t speak as sensitively as he should. Later, on the road, Stan compares Jenna with Max’s mother. In the past, Max’s mother had abandoned their family. So, Jenna objects to it and notes how supportive she has been of Ezra. Neverthless, Jenna wants Stan to open up to Max about his mother. But Stan rather chooses to bury his memories and anger. Meanwhile, Max shows up at his old friend, Grace’s (Vera Farmiga) house. While they talk, Ezra goes out to play with Grace’s daughter, Ruby (Matilda Lawler).

Ezra (2023) Movie Review, Ending Explained & Themes Analysed
Another still from “Ezra” (2023)

While playing, Ruby shows interest in what Ezra likes to not make him feel weird about himself. She offers him a snack with a metal spoon. After a bit of hesitation, he eats it. Back in Grace’s house, Max gets emotional talking about Ezra and how he wants to protect the kid from the authorities. Around this time, a local cop shows up outside Grace’s house, looking for Max & Ezra. So, Grace offers her car to Max so that they can drive to LA. Before they leave, Ruby offers Ezra a hug. Unlike other times, Ezra doesn’t start screaming when she touches him. So, Max gets emotional seeing this.

 Ezra (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

Does Max get arrested for kidnapping Ezra?

On their drive to LA, Max tries to explain his parenting approach to Ezra with a metaphor. He wants Ezra not to make the same mistakes he did. That’s why he tries to help Max escape his fears. Later, they stop by a restaurant, where Stan shows up with Jenna. Stan secretly goes to meet Max. This time, he apologizes to his son and admits that it is long-due. Since his mother’s departure, Max blamed himself for it. But she didn’t leave because of Max. Stan admits that it was because she was tired of fighting with him. He accepts his fault and appreciates Max for taking charge of the situation, unlike him, for his son.

Soon after, Max reaches LA with Ezra and enters Kimmel’s show’s stage for an audition. Stan & Jenna reach there to help Ezra. But before they can enter, the child services show up there to take Ezra with them and to arrest Max. Jenna tries to help calm Ezra in this stressful situation. But Ezra sees an officer trying to handcuff Max and attacks him. Then, he hugs Max and tells him that everything will be okay. A while later, we see Max, Jenna, and Ezra back together at home, working their way around Max’s house arrest. In the mid-credit scene, we see Max making it to the Kimmel’s.

Ezra (2023) Movie Themes Analysed:

Throughout “Ezra,” there is an underlying theme of intergenerational behavioral strain. Stan never took accountability for his outbursts of anger and refused to change himself or gain emotional maturity. That’s why he lost his job after he lost control over his anger and slapped a customer over a complaint. Similarly, Max has anger issues and is similarly stubborn about his ways. Since Stan didn’t pay attention to Max’s sentiments, Max didn’t learn to be emotionally available for his son. That’s why he ignored Ezra’s emotional needs under the garb of teaching him to be like other kids.

Ezra (2023) Movie Review:

Tony Goldwyn’s “Ezra” is stacked up with actors who are proficient in their work. Be it Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Robert De Niro, Vera Farmiga, Rainn Wilson, or Whoopi Goldberg, everyone is reliable in their roles. Whether a moment is comedic or somber, they understand how to perform with the necessary subtlety. So, much of the film’s evocative power comes from their impeccable work. Not that they don’t hit a false note or two. But they highlight the film’s thematic subtext in a script that often doesn’t rely on overt expositions.

While De Niro or Cannavale have given enough great performances to prove their range, Rose Byrne gets a chance to explore her dramatic acting chops and she nails it. As a helpless ex-wife of an emotionally unavailable husband and a protective mother of an autistic child, she brings a surprising amount of warmth & strength to her role without veering into any cliches. Among these accomplished castmates, William Fitzgerald holds his own as a kid who has to be a parent of his parents at times. Not that the film is quite groundbreaking. But “Ezra” is certainly gut-wrenching when it needs to be without being sappy.

Read More: Ezra: Digital Streaming Release Date Revealed for Robert De Niro starrer road-trip movie

Trailer:

Ezra (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Ezra (2023) Movie Cast: Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Robert De Niro, William A. Fitzgerald, Whoopi Goldberg, Vera Farmiga, Tony Goldwyn, Rainn Wilson, Jackson Frazer, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Alex Plank, Geoffrey Owens
Ezra (2023) Movie Genre: Comedy/Drama | Runtime: 1h 40m
Where to watch Ezra

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