In a scene from “Ezra” 2023, from left are Robert De Niro, Bobby Cannavale and William A. Fitzgerald. IMDb

Tony Goldwyn, born to the best sunlight in Hollywood, always had a lot to carry on his shoulders and solid substance to offer. His famous father and grandfather were the swaggering big print moguls of old Hollywood.

He’s done well, having to swim in that warm pool.

Tony is a smaller figure than his ancestors and his last name helped and hurt, but today he has solid standing in New Hollywood as an actor/writer and director.

Here, at the wheel as director, he gives us a realistic walk through the perils and heartbreaks of autism spectrum disorder or ASD, and that’s a lot for you couples to unpack through a lifetime.

We get the walking life-on-fire Bobby Cannavale as Max, an angry and not very funny standup comedian in a world full of them.

Max has been, we are told, making nickels and dimes in the comedy clubs of New Jersey, where struggling comics wait for their time on the boards.

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Max’s act these days involves stories about his ASD-suffering son Ezra (beginning actor William A. Fitzgerald, who is actually neurodivergent). Max’s act is laced with way too much hard core profanity for audiences that surely have parents who think it’s not funny.

Max’s life is stalled. He has been, for a long time, living with his father Stan, a doorman with anger issues that he clearly passed on to Max. Stan has no laughs in his snarl.

Robert De Niro is welcome here as always, snarl or not.

Max has an ex-wife, Jenna (a solid Rose Byrne), who clearly comes from a family with better manners and cleaner sheets.

We think maybe she thought Max was cute and funny when they both were younger, and then Ezra came along and things fell apart. They divorced, she got Ezra and the house, and remarried a lawyer of her class.

It doesn’t matter. They split the hours with young Ezra, who is brighter than both of them and reads the Times at 5. There is much to love about Ezra, who calms them both by touching their earlobes, something they cannot do.

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But Ezra has been bouncing out of one school after another, and has been prescribed heavy medicines that Max angrily rejects. And this where you come in.

Max goes off his own rails, shoves doctors around, and finally kidnaps Ezra and drives to L.A., where his agent (Whoopi Goldberg) gets him fives minute on Jimmy Kimmel’s show, where his anger flares and the police come to cuff him.

Then, (hold on), in a dopey, tacked-on ending, Kimmel’s sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez appears as himself and also as a bodyguard.

The beauty in Ezra’s beast in this, his debut, is his grasp of his role and how he and Max make it all work.

“Ezra” will open at the Maine Film Center May 31.

 

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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