Coming on the heels of last year's most-wonderfully exquisite musical Westside Story, Steven Spielberg has once again knocked it out of the park with a film he's wanted to make for more than two decades - The Fabelmans, the story of his young life and how he discovered the magic and inspiring ingredients that would set him on the path of making some of the world's greatest movies. With a stellar cast of veteran actors and newcomers, The Fabelmans remind everyone of the power of cinema and that dreams are the true art form to create a better world. Getting this rare glimpse inside Spielberg's adolescent life is truly outstanding and powerful. Highly Recommended!
When most people think of the word "film" or "movie", one certain name comes up more often than not. That is Spielberg. The legendary filmmaker has brought some of the world's most poignant and exceptional movies to the masses, whether they be about a man-eating shark, finding somebody in the chaos of WWII, a boy befriending an alien from outer space, or even the difficult subject of the Holocaust. There are countless others that should be mentioned, but everyone gets the idea. Spielberg is the ultimate storyteller of this modern generation and continues this path of creativity into his own personal life with The Fabelmans.
Spielberg has talked openly about his young life which came with good and bad times, much like everyone else's. In 1999, Spielberg wanted to write a film with his sister but didn't want to make his parents or other family upset. Then several years later, things started to take form for this film and since then, the ideas have inspired The Fabelmans which follow a young boy named Sam Fabelman (the impressive Gabriel LaBelle) who is essentially playing Spielberg in grade school. His parents Mitzi and Burt Fabelman (Michelle Williams and Paul Dano) have a close-knit family with three other daughters and their faux-uncle Benny (Seth Rogen).
The first scene reveals young Sam's first brush with cinema as his parents take him to the theater to see Cecil B Demille's The Greatest Show On Earth in 1952. His mind is blown. Sam is intrigued, excited, and also scared, and due to his anxiety, suffers a bit. This is when he asks his parents for a model train set for Hanukkah, just like the one he saw in The Greatest Show On Earth. All he wants to do is crash the train set but becomes overwhelmed by not being able to control the crash and his emotions, which is when his mom gives him a camera to film it so he can regain his control. From here, the young Sam starts to make those home movies on various cameras and as time goes on, he learns how to edit, make cheap visual effects, and craft interesting stories with his friends and siblings.
But this isn't a story of how Spielberg found his love for films. It also tells the sad tale of his parent's divorce and how it affected him and his family. Sam's father Burt is a gentile genius working on the incoming age of computers and his best friend Benny has been alongside him every step of the way. His mother Mitzi is the budding artist in the family who could have been the next great piano player but had a family instead. That doesn't stop her from encouraging her kids, especially Sam from finding their own creative endeavors. It becomes clear though that there's something beneath the happy surface with Mitzi as Sam undertakes more movies, the family moving across the country, and dealing with anti-semitic bullies at school.
This all comes full circle as Sam makes his films in high school as he realizes films are meant to be shared with those you love and even those you don't particularly care for. They make an impact on people's lives even though they are fictional and can inspire others to do good. And even in Sam's personal turmoil with his own issues and family, he still finds beauty and magic in unexpected places, including his own tormentors and first love. Spielberg delivers his signature style of camera sweeps and even implores a few new tricks for good measure. There are even some subtle, nuanced winks to his future films that made him famous that will be missed if one doesn't pay attention.
Williams and Dano knock it out of the park here. Williams as Mitzi is one of the more finely tuned performances in years as she shows her character's mental struggles as she wants to always do the right thing. Dano is perfect as the father who always shows up and Rogen is great too and shows another side of himself as the fun-loving uncle. But it's LaBelle who just takes control over each scene with his commanding performance of innocence that is so captivating. Plus the best cameo of the year is the one and only David Lynch playing the part of one of the greatest directors to ever walk the earth. It's painfully funny. The Fabelmans might be a little long in the tooth and drag in a few places, but this film is outstanding and again, reminds everyone that movies are the ultimate form of love, thrills, and entertainment. Spielberg is simply the greatest and his partner in crime John Williams has yet again conducted another grande score. Highly Recommended!