Movies this good should be illegal. Not necessarily for the general population, but for middle-class, millenial, movie-nerds such as myself. It’s just too much of a good thing and that’s just dangerous for a boy like me. If you’re my age you grew up in the hay-day of Steven Spielberg’s career. He has directed 24 feature-length films since 1989–a massive catalog for any director and only about half of his.
Spielberg is also a master of every genre of movie. Action, Comedy, Tragedy, Horror, Drama, Science Fiction. There’s nothing he hasn’t touched as a filmmaker. It seems like the only subject he hasn’t touched, is himself…probably could’ve worded that better, but let’s roll with it.
‘The Fabelmans’ is a semi-autobiographical film. While it isn’t directly about the man himself, it follows the adolescent years of Sammy Fabelman (played by Gabriel LaBelle). We’ll call him a “Spielberg-Adjacent” main character. It primarily focuses on his discovery of the art of filmmaking, and his family. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into with this film. Turns out I was wrong, but it the best way possible.
The film centers around the Fabelman family as they live and grow-up in middle-century America…primarily Arizona. Sammy is raised by two parents (Paul Dano and Michelle Williams) who support his passion in the midst of their own rocky relationship. He learns to use the gifts he is given to create a safe space from his parents marriage and the discomfort of growing up.
While there is much to love about ‘The Fabelmans’, there is perhaps no brighter spot than it’s performances. Gabriel LaBelle is fantastic in his role as Sammy. Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch are also great additions to the cast. However, nothing holds a candle to Michelle Williams and her performance as the family matriarch Mitzi Fabelman. Personally, I’ve been waiting for her to get out of the shadow of being Jen from ‘Dawson’s Creek’. I think she has finally done it here. (That was a joke. Please do not crucify me, internet). It is perhaps her most fluid performance to-date. Mitzi is a such a beautifully complex character and Williams plays it without the slightest hint of melodrama. This is a TOMMY AWARD winning performance if I’ve ever seen one. We’ll see if the voters agree come January.
The story that Spielberg has crafted is so grand that you forget how microscopic the subject matter really is. It’s not about a once-in-a-lifetime filmmaker’s meteoric rise. Instead it gives us a glimpse, at least I think so anyways, into the depths of his soul. This is what makes him tick. It’s so profoundly beautiful because it’s so relatable. Sammy Fabelman isn’t a freak of nature filmmaker who attains god-like status, he’s a kid who fucking loves movies…like me.
Is it the best Spielberg movie ever? Who’s to say? I think I can say it’s my favorite though. Steven got inside of me with this one–ok, again, probably a better way to phrase it but I’m still gonna roll with it.
Verdict: 4.5/5 Stars…and yes, I went back and added a half-star to my Letterboxd rating. We’ll say it gets an extra half-star for David Lynch…IYKYK.
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