"The Fabelmans" stars Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch. Released on November 11, 2022, the film has a young man discovering a family secret during his journey to become a filmmaker.
The film was directed by Steven Spielberg, who also directed films such as "Jaws", "Jurassic Park", "Saving Private Ryan", and "Ready Player One". The art of filmmaking brings out the best of us. It inspires us to pursue our path to make movies and see the world from a different perspective. The movies can also provide a sense of escapism from the real world and deliver incredible stories that stir various emotions. In other words, they showcase that there're more than just moving pictures on the screen, and no one knows it better than Mr. Steven Spielberg himself. Following his take on "West Side Story" last year, the filmmaker wasted no time getting his latest project into this year's Oscar race. Although, this movie, in particular, seems to be his most personal one yet compared to his other classics. The film happens to be a reflection of Spielberg's childhood and his path to becoming a film director, told through his and Tony Kushner's original screenplay. In short, it's based on a true story, but it's not actually based on a true story. I didn't know much about Spielberg's personal life since I prefer to mind my own business. All I know about him is that he has made plenty of fantastic movies. So I was curious to see how he portrays his life story through his fictional storytelling. With that said, let's see if the film can capture the hearts of many cinephiles and moviegoers.
The story centers on Sammy Fabelman (LaBelle), a young boy inspired to make movies after his parents, Burt (Dano) and Mitzi (Williams), took him to see his first film. With the support of his parents and sisters, Sammy begins to film regularly. However, as his journey to become a filmmaker progresses, Sammy encounters many issues regarding his family that could damage his relationship with them, including Mitzi's shocking affair.
There's no doubt that Hollywood loves movies that celebrate itself and filmmaking. That's basically one of the reasons they get free passes to the award ceremonies. "The Fabelmans" is another addition to that list this year, along with "Empire of Light", which I'm still waiting to see. I know it's already out, but it hasn't come to my closest cinema yet, so I'm still a little late seeing it. Until then, I might as well talk about Spielberg's journey into the world of filmmaking, which is sadly going by unnoticed. While it has gained numerous nominations at the Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice Awards, the movie hasn't been making enough money to recoup its $40 million budget. That would've made it the second consecutive box-office bomb for Spielberg, following last year's "West Side Story" remake. This is unfortunate because people are missing out on another fantastic movie from the acclaimed filmmaker.
The movie is an overly charming and subtly moving coming-of-age drama reflecting Sammy's desire to be a filmmaker. However, it also offers something more than just the main character making home movies. "The Fabelmans" is also a poignant reflection of Sammy's struggles with his happy family drifting apart due to Mitzi's secret being exposed by his filmmaking. It's a heartwarming and sometimes sad depiction of following one's passion despite the hurt that comes with it, but it's also a touching tribute to filmmaking that only Spielberg understands.
Regarding his direction, Steven Spielberg surrounds his movie with a sense of charm and merriment regarding the cast's chemistry and humor, which is enough for me to forgive its two-and-a-half-hour runtime. However, he also never forgets about the emotional weight of the drama that awaits the family, including Mitzi's affair and the anti-Semitic abuse from high school bully Chad Thomas (Oakes Fegley). All these elements are equally balanced to the point that it doesn't look awkward or inconsistent when transcending from one scene to the next. But the real icing on the cake is how Spielberg handles the topic of filmmaking and how it affects those around us.
Spielberg relies on Janusz Kamiński's cinematography to gracefully capture the many emotions of watching a movie. Additionally, his screenplay, which he co-wrote with Tony Kushner, is sublime in exploring the realistic perspectives of filmmaking. When Sammy films and edits his movies, he sees them from an artist's perspective, similar to how Spielberg sees them. On the other hand, everyone else watches them for a more humane connection, to see how they appear on the screen and experience the emotion reflected in them. Many of us see film differently, whether it's from the perspective of the filmmaker, a movie enthusiast, or a regular moviegoer. "The Fabelmans" is a fitting portrayal that reminds me why I love movies and pays equal respect to those perspectives.
Another strong element that made the movie great was its cast. Both Paul Dano and Michelle Williams were stunning in their roles as Burt and Mitzi. Michelle Williams has gotten plenty of attention this year with her acting nominations, and based on what I saw, she definitely deserved that praise. Williams successfully portrays a mother who's loving and supportive but also emotionally conflicted when her affair is revealed. As a result, it's one of the best performances I've seen from her. Gabriel LaBelle had the daunting task of carrying the movie following his supporting roles in films like the 2018 reboot of "Predator", and he accomplished it very well. LaBelle did a great job portraying Sammy through his charm and emotion, especially when he discovers his mom's secret while editing his camping trip movie. Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch also delivered some terrific moments in their supporting roles as Bennie and Boris Schildkraut, respectively.
In addition to the cinematography and editing, "The Fabelmans" also provided the magic touch through John Williams' musical score. Whether it's for a happy-go-lucky scene, a thrilling sequence, or an emotional altercation, Williams knows how to find the right music for its given tone. "The Fabelmans" is no exception, with Williams providing music that's sweet, down-to-earth, and consistently engaging. Considering that Spielberg and Williams worked exceptionally well together in their previous films, it's no surprise that the latter's music in the movie is outstanding to listen to.
Overall, "The Fabelmans" is a brilliant and thoughtfully beautiful passion project from Steven Spielberg that celebrates the heart of film and the passion behind it. Not only does it work as a compelling and well-written coming-of-age journey, but it's also at its best when seen as a faithful reflection of how people view filmmaking as either an artist or an ordinary viewer. From its fantastic cast to Spielberg's direction and screenplay to Williams' magnificent score, the movie is another marvelous winner from one of the most inspiring filmmakers of all time. I genuinely believe Spielberg should be proud of himself for sharing his childhood through his originality. A childhood that led him to make some of the most iconic movies of all time and inspire other young filmmakers to follow in his footsteps. This film made me appreciate the art of filmmaking and the director even more, and I am grateful for how far he's come to be in that position. So if you like movies as much as I do, you don't want to miss out on this one.