‘Ezra’ mixes autism and standup comedy


“Ezra” comes to the M.V. Film Center this weekend beginning Saturday, June 15, with a 4 pm showing. This heart-felt comedy is part of the M.V. Film Center’s Father’s Day weekend screenings. Directed by Tony Goldwyn, “Ezra” is based on a true story, and stars Bobby Cannavale as Max Bernale, as well as youngster William A. Fitzgerald as Ezra. Other actors include Robert De Niro as Max’s father Stan, Rose Byrne as Jenna, Vera Farmiga as Grace, and Whoopi Goldberg as Jayne.

Max plays a standup comedian who lives with his dad, and his comedy routine includes occasional wisecracks about his autistic son, Ezra. After Ezra is kicked out of school for his disruptive behavior, a doctor recommends putting him on drugs and sending him to a special-needs school. Max wants no part of this. His ex-wife Jenna and Max argue about who’s going to care for him. The result is that after slugging the doctor, Max ends up in jail temporarily, but gets out. Then the result is that Max kidnaps Ezra from his bedroom at Jenna’s, and takes him on a cross-country road trip in Stan’s convertible. Max’s goal is to perform on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

It soon becomes evident from conversations with his son that Max is within the range of autism himself. But as the two converse, it becomes clear that Max is devoted to his son, and is motivated to help him to lead a normal life.

The first place they end up on their road trip is in Michigan, at the home of Max’s brother Nick (Rainn Wilson), where they chat about their dad and other relevant subjects. Stan, along with Jenna, has taken after Max, so Max and Ezra leave Nick behind. In order to retrieve her son, Jenna has issued an amber alert, involving the authorities in the effort to retrieve Ezra, and in the chase, Max crashes his car in the woods.

Now hitchhiking, the two arrive in Nebraska, where Max grew up. There they end up at Grace’s house. This childhood friend supports Max’s kidnapping of Ezra, and she offers them another getaway car. Along the way, Max performs his standup routine, again using his son as a reference point. This keeps the story going on a humorous basis, rather than growing too serious.

Soon Stan catches up with his son and Ezra, and confessing to his mistreatment of Max when he was growing up, he also turns out to support Max’s kidnapping of Ezra. Once they arrive in Los Angeles and Max gets to perform there, he is arrested. Thanks to a sympathetic Jenna, Max ends up free, and his son arrives at the special-needs school he’d been recommended for. Fitzgerald, who is an actor with autism, shines as Ezra. Cannavale also does an excellent job playing Max. DeNiro adds his usual fine performance. With this solid cast to watch, viewers are sure to enjoy “Ezra.”

Information and tickets for “Ezra” are available at mvfilmsociety.com.