The Fabelmans (2022)

Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch,
Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, young Sammy Fabelman aspires to become a filmmaker as he reaches adolescence, but soon discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power of films can help him see the truth.
  • 7.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-12-14 Added:
  • Tony Kushner, Writer:
  • Steven Spielberg, Director:
  • Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producer:


10 / 10

Steven Spielberg still makes masterful cinema

The Fabelmans is very worthy of Oscar nominations the acting throughout was one of the best ever! The family dynamic was so sweet and I wish could be a filmmaker or work on movies in some aspect like Sam's character which I'm pretty sure was based on Steven Spielbergs life. I absolutely loved everything about the movie only hard thing is the length even that is worth it. Packed with great emotions, how to make movies, tender moments, perfect humor, cinematic scenery, and brilliant acted scenes that electrified me! I'm proud of Seth Rogen being involved in serious roles where as the bulk of his roles were raunchy or less serious. All around wonderful film for anyone to enjoy.

8 / 10

"A movie is a dream you never forget"

It's watching Steven Spielberg grow up from a child terrified by the train crash in THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, to an adolescent film maker. He's pretty up front about the family issues and his parents' break up. I suspect he has realized that being an adult is a tough thing and is willing to forgive.

At 150 minutes, it should feel self indulgent, but it never does, thanks to a terrific performance by Michelle Williams as the mother and Paul Dano as the father. No one seems to be acting, which is half the Spielberg magic. There are also great cameos by Judd Hirsch as the profane uncle who was a lion tamer, and David Lynch as John Ford.

Some of the characters seem sketchily drawn, particularly the sisters, but that serves to emphasize Miss Williams, Dano, and Gabriel LaBelle as the Steven Spielberg character. Is she t that Spielberg and his frequent collaborator Tony Kühner, have drawn a fine portrait of a Jewish post-war family, when things were supposed to be so very bland... but really, people were living their lives.

2 / 10

Spielberg's Heart Was In The Right Place

'The Fabelmans' is not good. Director and Co-Writer Steven Spielberg's heart was in the right place (the idea, the conceit, the structure is fine), but the execution fails to deliver. The film is too long by far, scenes run on forever, the story seems flabby and unfocused (and yes, that includes the hero's undying desire to become a film-maker).

Here's what I believe Spielberg was attempting.

(1) He is presenting the story of HIS life; how he (Spielberg) became to world famous film director.

(2) In doing so, he portrays different periods of his life as though each were a different genre of movie. (a) The film's opening plays like a 50s family sitcom, complete with the goofy next-door neighbor. A visit from an uncle plays like a horror film. (b) Adolescence is a 'Beach Blanket' movie with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, at other times a 'Blackboard Jungle' of bigoted and roughneck bullies. (c) We've got 'OZ's' Yellow Brick Road of a finale, preceded by 'OZ's' Dorothy / Spielberg meeting with the wizard himself and receiving his advice. (d) Add to this 'The Conversation' / 'Blow Out' / 'Blow Up' fascination with studying taped video and or audio, inch by inch, in order to fully understand what is actually taking place.

(3) Now the use of film genres in this way could be a very satisfying. It would tell us that Spielberg always viewed his life, while living it, as a movie. And it might have worked were the film less talky, better written (the dialogue is awful), and faster paced. And perhaps better shot. There is something flat up there on the screen; nearly every scene feels like the one before and the one that follows. I can't say why. It just does.

I wish I'd liked the film. As a big fan of Spielberg's earlier work, I had strong rooting interest for him to meet his usual high standard.

And it's likely you do too. And as such you might well look past my criticisms of the film; might hold him to a less lofty standard.

You might well enjoy it.

I imagine that many viewers will.

8 / 10

Dear Diary, It's Steven

After 50 years of making movies, Steven Spielberg is still, in the 2020s, finding new muscles to work. His semi-autobiopic, The Fabelmans, is different in style, reach, and aim, than anything Spielberg has ever made. The consummate ringmaster has never helmed a film so modest. And for a director whose personal attachments are spread all over his filmography, The Fabelmans may also be his most intimate.

The story of Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) is the story of Steven Spielberg, Jewish kid from Small Town USA, lover and later maker of movies. Sam shares with Steven three younger sisters, an eccentric concert pianist mother, an electrical engineer father, and a nearly identical path to movie directing. The names might be different, but obviously The Fabelmans is a dramatization of Steven Spielberg's childhood. It's certainly not our first indication of what the director thinks of such things as his parents' divorce, his interpersonal relationships with his family, or the images, moments, and memories that inspired him to make movies. Spielberg has brilliantly disguised these themes within his genre films; in alien invasion movies, dinosaur pictures, science fiction noirs, and family fantasy adventures. But with The Fabelmans, here comes the full reveal. It is a movie directly about family. His family. One must assume The Fabelmans is Steven Spielberg's last word on the subjects that have bewitched him throughout his career.

The Fabelmans is kitchen sink drama all the way; no bells, no whistles, no magic realism or distracting style. In other words, no distance from these characters. The ones we have here are all quite well-realized. Paul Dano as Burt, the Fableman patriarch, is a sweetheart; surprisingly real despite an affected subservient speech pattern. Dano's character could have been an embarrassing caricature of the "no fun, get a job" father, but he comes out well-intentioned and completely three dimensional in a thankless role. Michelle Williams has the showier job playing mother Mitzy. She doesn't fumble the challenge, and in fact carves out a memorable personality from the more artistically inclined of Sam's parents. In the middle is Gabriel LaBelle, the latest model of the square-jawed, brown-eyed, young male muse that Spielberg has been searching for for decades now. Like Ansel Elgort, Tye Sheridan, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jeremy Irvine, and Shia LaBeouf before him (the man has a type), he's good enough. LaBelle is a likeable personality, a truly important metric for a performance like this, and he anchors the film admirably. Will it be that elusive star-making performance Spielberg has clearly been wanting from one of his young proteges? No. But it's a nice one.

A few supporting players stop in for extended cameos. Judd Hirsh's quick turn as Uncle Boris may very well earn him an Oscar nomination. Hirsch has the classic showpiece monologue-two of them to be exact-and the sort of built-up respect needed for such a role. Young Chloe East on the other hand is a real discovery as Sam's high school girlfriend. Just when the movie needs a little energy, she comes in with the good stuff. Her's is a bright and living performance that never feels put on. Seth Rogan is there as well. A risky, maybe inspired casting choice, he's not bad.

The Fabelmans is practically structureless, even at times aimless. There is no agreed-upon thesis that the movie is working toward, nor is there a feeling Spielberg is coaxing us into experiencing. As a cinematic project, it does not play to its director's strengths whatsoever. But we've seen the resiliency of Steven Spielberg before. Desert animal he truly is; able to adapt to changing landscapes and external challenges. By his standards, this is a tiny movie. Not the first quiet, artistic coming-of-age movie (in one of the movie's few missteps, it trots out a clichéd bullying subplot that drags the quality of the production way down), but in experienced, versatile hands, one of the very best.

The Fabelmans certainly won't blow the doors off the box office, and for many, its sincere love for the craft of filmmaking will go completely unregistered. That narrow appeal, however, is precisely why The Fabelmans is destined to become a very special movie for people like me. I had my own 'Greatest Show on Earth' experience at six years old, when I saw Sam Raimi's Spider-man in one of the great big theaters where my aunt lived. Later, after I had discovered more of my favorites, developed a taste for the movies, I made my own. My cousins starred in one Jurassic Park rip-off as a team of scientists pursued by dragons in Shanghai. I became a film snob in college, and made short films with the guiding help of a professor who thought I had potential. I got a job as a documentarian and later directed a commercial or two of my own. All the while, I had my own family, who happen to be a lot like The Fabelmans, there to support and sometimes to trivialize, but whom I love with everything I have. Oh, it is sappy to talk about how personal The Fabelmans feels to me. I'm sure mine will not be the only review emphasizing how relatable this film is to someone with the artistic itch. But I assume I'm much like Sam Fabelman, and Steven Spielberg too, when I say that movies are my therapy. Our careers may never compare, but at least we'll share that.

Mazal Tov.


10 / 10

If Super 8 and Cinema Paradiso Had a Baby

Spielberg has been a favorite director since I was a kid, but I still envy my parents who got to see his debut hits in theaters back in the 70s. Prior to this hit, the only movie of his I saw on release was Ready Player One (which I loved) but it didn't compete with his classics like ET or Jaws. This movie was different. Not only was it his best film in decades but it came from a different part of Spielberg we haven't seen before, being way more personal than his earlier films. Whether you like film or not, this movie is a must see. It is about passion, family, grief, and coming of age. It hits all of its marks with flying colors.