Starring: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch
Director: Steven Spielberg
It's been awhile since we've had a great Steven Spielberg film, but that wait is over. The Fabelmans is a film about the art of filmmaking wrapped in a coming-of-age story. Based on the childhood of Spielberg, you can feel the emotion he poured into the script and its direction. It's a wonderful effort from the director, underlined by yet another whimsical score by a 90-year-old John Williams. The cast is solid across the board too, and Gabriel LaBelle is one to look out for, but all the credit for this film deserves to go to Mr. Spielberg.
While I respect what director Steven Spielberg has created with The Fabelmans, it’s not at all what I expected, and because of that, I wasn’t enthralled with it. It’s expertly made across the board, of course, but I wanted to see how Spielberg’s childhood love of movies blossomed to create the respected filmmaker we know today. Instead, this is a movie about how he kinda-sorta used movies to escape typical family problems and bullying. It’s likely to win several major awards, and it’s not unworthy (Michelle Williams, especially), but I may enjoy it more the second time when my expectations don’t get in the way.
The Fabelmans is not director Steven Spielberg’s best. It’s not even close, truth be told. That said, it is his most personal offering. It definitely has heart, but, more importantly, this film is about love. Not just the love amongst Lil’ Spielberg’s family, but the love of film. Overall, it’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but the technical aspects are really great. It’s well-shot and put together well, with every actor doing a great job, especially Michelle Williams and Judd Hirsch in a brilliant, glorified cameo. But still, while the story may not be coherent, per se, it’s a beautiful Spielberg film nonetheless.
The Fabelmans is a film from the Greatest Director of All Time, in which he explores his obsession with filmmaking and how it ties into his family life. While I enjoyed the film as a window into Spielberg's upbringing and how the events of his youth shaped the themes of his filmography, I couldn't help but feel a bit of distance from the characters and subject matter. The film is so well made on a production level that it almost makes the film feel somewhat artificial. It would have been better had the approach felt more intimate and less polished.
While it’s unlikely to join the all-time greats in Steven Spielberg’s prolific directing career, The Fabelmans is nonetheless one of the best movies about making movies to come along in a long time. It may not reach its full potential moment to moment, but the whole of it is a step above most other films of its kind, unlocking the psyche of Spielberg for those most interested in the “why” of his love of moviemaking. Gabriel LaBelle holds his own as the ostensible lead of the film, with a great supporting cast to bounce off of, including a show-stealing Chloe East.
This film was reviewed by Nick, Quentin, and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.