The Fabelmans Review

Steven Spielberg has made some of the most loved and revered films in the history of the film industry. His movies have wowed and amazed audiences for fifty years. His latest film might be the most autobiographical of them all though. He has finally broken down and did a movie about himself. The Fabelmans is a film that for good or bad depicts his own upbringing. And that of his family including his mother, father, sisters, and uncle.

Sammie Fabelman (Gabriel Labelle) is your average boy. He’s curious and wants to learn about new things. When his parents (Paul Dano and Michelle Williams) take him to see The Greatest Show on Earth it changes his entire outlook on the world. He starts to learn how it was done and he makes his own home movies with his family and friends. His love of making movies is a contrast to his actual life which is a bit difficult. His parents aren’t getting along and he has issues at school with bullies.  His only solace is his camera and his home movies.

Spielberg doesn’t hold back on his story about this boy who learns some difficult lessons from this upbringing of being a Jewish boy in America. People aren’t very accepting of Jews in America at this time. He loves both his parents and his sisters but he notices that there is a rift growing between his parents. Even though they have given him everything he could have wanted he sees that they are growing apart from one another and he can’t do anything about it. All the camping trips and home movies will never save them. 

His family has always shown him creativity in the form of music played by his mother on piano and his father explaining how things are built and sometimes some equations he is working on for his work. They have been a blessing to a boy who is very creative and that burns inside of him as he embarks on a career in the movies even though he starts out on tv working at CBS on the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. He does get some great advice from John Ford (David Lynch) though.

You know if Spielberg is going to make a film about making movies to some extent he was going to have a distinct look for the film that showed that aspect in a very glowing way. So with that, he got Janus Kaminski as his cinematographer. Kaminski was able to create a bright and sunny look in the movie. It didn’t hurt that a lot of it takes place in Arizona and California. Also, there is a brownish sheen that makes it look old like the times the film takes place in, the 60s. This brought me into his world while watching the movie.

Spielberg isn’t a master of getting great performances out of the actors in his films but he did get some award-worthy performances from Michelle William as the mother of Labelle’s character. She had a dramatic arc as this woman who wants to be there for her kids but also one who falls out of love with her husband. Paul Dano’s character is a driven man who believes his career as an engineer will be the way to provide for his family and make them happy so he falls into his work. That drives them away including his wife. Dano is terrific as this conflicted man who doesn’t know how to be the father he wants to be. 

As a creative myself I found this movie very enlightening. It is a film that asks audiences to be sympathetic to this family’s plight because it might be relatable to those watching. We all grew up with extenuating circumstances so this story might be a little too close to home for some of us watching. Spielberg wanted to elicit a reaction from us while we were watching his movie. My reading and watching tv shows and movies as a kid took me away from my family’s struggles growing up. I always had it in the back of my mind to be creative in some way like the main character in the film. 

The Fabelmans is a movie that asks the viewer to be patient with the story so they can see where it is going. It’s a story that shows a creative genius in the making and what drove him to success. His family issues are what have driven him to succeed. The way that Spielberg decided to show this story on the big screen is very provocative and incisive. The cinematography by Kaminski and the acting by the cast especially Williams and Dano are superb. Spielberg has created a magnum opus at the fifty-year mark in his career and it’s the most personal as well. This is a major awards contender all the way around.

5 stars 

Dan Skip Allen

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