Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Actor Tony Goldwyn (“Scandal,” “Ghost”) directs a solid affecting family drama with “Ezra.” The film is bolstered by a terrific cast, while the acting is engaging and the pacing is swift. The emotion in particular shared by Bobby Cannavale and William Fitzgerald in the lead role eases the too-melodramatic end.

Max (Cannavale) is a separated father and mid-level comedian trying to make it as a productive dad, despite his intermittent explosive disorder. He has an autistic son, Ezra (Fitzgerald).

The school is pressuring the parents to send Ezra to a special needs school due to Ezra acting aggressively towards the other students. Max is understandably against the change as it would forfeit the progress that Ezra is making and jeopardize his friendships.

Ezra’s mother Jenna (Rose Byrne), however, is for the new school, reasoning it would give her son more compassionate care.

When Ezra returns to the house after a day with dad, he hears his mother’s boyfriend (Goldwyn) say that he would kill Ezra’s dad if Jenna wished for it. Ezra is shocked and goes into fight or flight mode, attempting to go to his Grandfather’s house to warn his dad. Ezra rushes into the night and is nearly hit by a taxi.

Unharmed, Ezra is summoned to the doctor along with his parents. The doctor says that Ezra must go to the new school along with a prescription for medicine. Max becomes enraged and punches the doctor.

He spends a short time in jail.

Max is sent home with his father (Robert De Niro) who also has anger issues, but all is well. Then Max goes to the house and takes Ezra away from home. He has a talk show appearance, and his son has always been good luck.

Jenna is horrified and initiates an Amber Alert.

While the story is somewhat formulaic, William Fitzgerald, autistic himself, is excellent in this first role. He is funny, compelling, and dynamic with verve and spirit. While the trappings of the “road movie” genre are conventional, the subject of autism is authentic without sentiment or cliche and the exchanges between Fitzgerald and Cannavale have an organic and honest spirit.

Cannavale alone has never been more genuine.

De Niro gives a good if predictable outing as the short-tempered father and Whoopi Goldberg gives a warm aura to the role of Max’s agent.

What shines through most is the dialogue and energy between Fitzgerald and Cannavale. The film well shows the visceral exchange of empathy, concern, frustration, and humor. This is not a disability film, but simply a portrait of a struggling father and his son.

While the end of the film flirts with melodrama, “Ezra” is a film about a son and a father who use humor as a communication, regardless of any struggles they both confront.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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