Connect with us
Spielberg’s The Fablemans
2022 Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Film

Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is a Great Film About What Movies Can and Can’t Do 

Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, a young man named Sammy Fabelman discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth.

TIFF 2022: The Fabelmans Review

The themes of broken homes, absent fathers, and people haunted by their relationships with their parents in adulthood have been so recurring throughout Steven Spielberg’s filmography that I think I always assumed that his parents had split up when he was about ten years old (it turns out, it was much later.) 

The Fabelmans, Spielberg’s new movie that had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, directly tells the story of the director’s youth and family life and gives us a close glimpse of Spielberg’s formative experiences. 

The other side of the film is about Spielberg’s youthful experiences as a filmmaker and, perhaps most importantly of all, the director discovering what film can do, and what it can’t. 

The Fabelmans follows the life of Spielberg’s fictional alter ego, Sammy Fabelman (played for most of the film by Gabriel LaBelle), starting in the late 1950s and continuing through the mid-1960s. He lives with his parents (Paul Dano and Michelle Williams), along with three younger sisters, and seemingly always around is his “Uncle Benny” (Seth Rogen), his father’s best friend. 

The first scene of the movie has Sammy taken by his kids to his first-ever movie, The Greatest Show on Earth, in the early 1950s. As someone who took his then-four-year-old to see Spielberg’s The BFG in 2016, only to have him run screaming from the theater, I could relate to that opening scene. 

Spielberg’s The Fablemans
2022 Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Before long he’s trying to re-enact the train crashes and film them. Soon, he’s making movies of everything, from faux-Westerns with his friends to movies about home camping trips. The scene in which his dad asks him to edit a home movie when he’s prepping his war film should be seen as a commentary on Spielberg’s penchant for always having multiple projects going at once, like when he released Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List in the same year. 

The film follows the family to Arizona and later Northern California, therefore introducing anti-Semitic bullies and a Christian girlfriend who’s trying to convert him. Throughout, Sammy uses the gift of filmmaking- to gain friends, impress girls, and execute complex revenge against his bullies. 

He also uses it to try to keep his family together, although that shows that film has its limitations (as demonstrated in one scene that’s a clear homage to Blow-Up and The Conversation.) However, the real-life Spielberg would spend much of his career dealing with that failure. 

The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Michelle Williams as the filmmaker’s depressed mother. Williams may not be the intuitive choice to play a midcentury Jewish mother, but her success in the role shows that proposed ethnically-uniform casting has its limitations. That issue, as well as whether Spielberg is using the film to air dirty laundry and throw his late mom under the bus, are questions likely to be litigated in the coming months.  

Judd Hirsch is in the film for just one scene, but it’s such a brilliant little performance that it drew applause at the premiere- and I expect it to bring the 87-year-old veteran actor awards attention. 

The Fabelmans, which comes out in November, is a special film, the kind of movie-about-movies that the Oscars have traditionally loved. I’m glad Spielberg got around to making such a personal movie before he reaches the end of his career. 

The 47th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 8–18Find all our coverage here.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Flo Milli Ends Performance After Fans Hurl Objects At Her, Gunna Shows Support

Celebrity

Who is Jacob Batalon, and where is he now?

Celebrity

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ 7 Kids: Everything to Know

Celebrity

Who is Emma Stone’s Husband: What You Need to Know about Dave McCary!

Celebrity

Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande constitute the global viewers’ attention “All About the Wicked” movie cast.

Celebrity

Latto Pulled Up To Angel Reese’s WNBA Debut In Style

Celebrity

Offset Claps Back At Fan Over Festival Performance Comments

Celebrity

Who Is Mahershala Ali’s Wife? Discover the Time He Got the Love of His Life!

Celebrity

Abigail Breslin Net Worth 2024: What Is The Actress Worth?

Celebrity

DJ Akademiks’ Instagram Account Mysteriously Disappears, Fans Craft Their Theories As To Why

Celebrity

Who Is Christopher Lloyd’s Wife? For How Long Has He Married Lisa?

Celebrity

Who Is Paul Stanley’s Wife? Discover Paul Stanley’s Marriage Life!

Celebrity

Who Is Gavin Rossdale’s Girlfriend? Know More About British Singer’s Girlfriend!

Celebrity

Tim McGraw Wife and Children: Explore America’s Country Singer Relationship Journey!

Celebrity

Bernard Hill Cause of Death: Titanic Movie Captain Dies at 79!

Celebrity

Who Is Sabrina Ionescu’s Husband? A Relationship Timeline with Hroniss Grasu!

Celebrity

Connect