The Fabelmans (2022)

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The Fabelmans (2022)

The Fabelmans is a core family movie-- a movie about a family, one that has a prodigy within it whose story is revealed as a reflection of that family and of his inspirations and his formation into one of the greatest movie makers of the last 50 years.

This is not an autobiography of Steven Spielberg, but it is autobiographical. We’re left to wonder how much of the story is verbatim, but we’re certain that they’ve included many significant highlights.

Sammy Fabelman was born into a Jewish family consisting of a gifted pre-computer scientist father, an artist dreamer mother, three sisters, and the father’s best friend Benny who lives with them, referred to as an “uncle”. Early on Sammy, aged 7, is taken to a showing of DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), where Sammy’s initial reluctance turns into complete fascination with the powerful film, most especially by a remarkable scene showing the traveling circus’s train crashing and piling up upon itself. The boy can’t get the scene out of his mind, and when he gets a train set for a present he tries over and over to replicate the scene. Fearing that Sammy will ruin the train set, his mother suggests that he get permission from his dad to use his 8mm camera to film the crash, which he then can view as many times as he’d like.

Filming that crash scene starts Sammy’s journey into film making. He enlists family, friends, and fellow boy scouts to participate in his film escapades, and as he acquires better equipment and more experience, he’s allowed to film his high school’s Senior “skip day” as the class spends a fun day at the beach, which is a smash success, but uncovers unexpected emotions from a few students, even from a former anti-Semitic tormentor. Along the way his filming during a family outing accidentally reveals a budding relationship between his mother and “uncle” Benny. Several characters come and go into Sammy’s life giving him insights and inspiration. After much rejection from the industry, he’s finally offered a job with a CBS sitcom, which sets him out on his well known professional career.

I approached this picture with the same confidence that I’ve felt in the past watching films from directors like Alfred Hitchcock and John Houston, that their work is of such a high quality, I was with high expectations willing to put myself in their capable hands for a couple of hours. The Fabelmans did not disappoint. Despite its 2-1/2 hour runtime I was not the least bit aware of its length from start to finish.

The story was interesting enough but it was the acting, cinematography, production design and settings and costuming that really impressed me. I’m two years older than Spielberg so I’m well aware of the way things looked in the decades of the ‘50s into the early ‘60s. So often earlier time frames are treated in a gaudy technicolor manner which is caricature, not reality. The buildings, garb, coloring, homes, furniture were 100% authentic. The era’s personality types, state of mind and manner of speaking were well represented, almost perfectly avoiding present day idioms. The simple but powerful music score was by John Williams.

Michelle Williams is a sure bet for an Oscar from her role as Sammy’s mother, Mitzi. She let out all the stops, and if the Academy has any integrity left, she’ll likely win Best Actress. I thought Paul Dano was slightly miscast as Sammy’s father, Burt, but he delivered a solid and understated performance. Sammy was played with excellence by Gabriel LaBelle, a young Canadian actor who we’re guaranteed to see more of. There must have been a lot of pressure on him to perform under the eyes of the man he’s portraying. And the young Sammy, played by Mateo Zoryan was letter perfect.

Two cameos --one extended, the other rather brief-- were absolutely memorable standouts. One, Sammy’s Uncle Boris, played by the venerable Judd Hirsch, was a performance which will be studied in acting schools. The other, director John Ford, played by the quixotic director David Lynch, was not only a good impersonation, but one with enjoyable high style.

Reportedly Spielberg had envisioned this film for many years, and it must have taken a huge amount of thought as to how to hit important events in his childhood and family which produced the development of his determination to make movies, but yet with enough appeal to engage a wide audience. Still, when it came down to it, the script, co-written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner, came together very quickly. It is of the very best of the year, and will be awarded for it.

Doc’s rating: 8/10

My thoughts: This was wonderful. Gabriel LaBelle is very good and I'm rooting for him to get an Oscar nomination. Michelle Williams was excellent and I loved Paul Dano's performance too. The parts of the story with Sammy making films worked the best for me. The family and school drama wasn't as strong, but overall the film is well written and this is Spielberg's best film in over a decade. Currently, my 3rd favourite film of 2022 and my prediction to win best picture.

I just finished watching this, and it felt like the old movies of Spielberg.

It was indulgent in parts and I can understand why.
The acting in the beginning felt a bit off, like I was watching a 50s or 60s movie. But it got better as the movie progressed.

I thought Dano's performance was the best, cause he was playing a complex character. Michelle Williams, though good, needs to diversify more cause this is yet another unsatisfied wife role for her. I must mention Julia Butters, who has one real scene of note with the main character and she was brilliant in it.

But obviously my favourite part was when John Ford's character walked in. I was smiling for several minutes after that scene.

Overall a decent movie. Nothing out of the ordinary, but a simple tale told well.

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I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I thought it was quite good but not great, perhaps slightly less than the sum of its parts. Everything about it is very well made, each individual scene is well directed, the production design is good...yet it did feel a bit like a collection of individual scenes rather than coalescing into an interesting overall story. It's a little long and indulgent. I also found Michelle Williams' character incredibly annoying but wasn't sure how much that was supposed to be the point of her character.

I wonder if it would have been better if Spielberg had made it actually about himself rather than this fictionalisation. Considering that all biopics are fictionalised anyway, it seemed to keep it in this limbo between autobiography and dramatic movie.

I did enjoy watching it, I just don't see think it'd any kind of masterpiece.

Just home from this. Was solid, although undoubtedly self-indulgent on Spielberg's part - tbh although it may be one of, if not, the most personal of his movies (even his pre-amble before the film admited this), it's well down the pecking order of his filmography for mine.

Some good performances mixed in with some that felt a bit off, incl Michelle Williams. Paul Dano handled the complexity of his character well, and the David Lynch cameo as John Ford at the end was a great point to end the movie on (just about), left me with a smile on my way out of the theatre.