Starring Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch, Seth Rogen
The growing trend of high-profile directors turning their personal stories into movies continues with one of the most celebrated men in cinema “Movies are dreams you never forget.” Steven Spielberg’s “The Fablemans” is a blend of fact and fiction, exploring how he came to live and breathe cinema. This family-friendly, coming-of-age story boasts a likely Oscar-worthy performance by Michelle Williams, portraying a complicated version of Spielberg’s mother. “The Fablemans” is equal parts about growing up Jewish in the 60s, a mother/son bond experience, all wrapped up in one child’s need to take control of the story. You can expect the usual expert cinematography as Spielberg reteams with Janusz Kaminski (“West Side Story,” “Bridge of Spies”). These self-reflective projects allow filmmakers to criticize their methods. In contrast, Spielberg doesn’t do this as blatantly as Iñárritu with “Bardo”; he does have a line in there from his young sisters addressing his lack of female roles.
A young Sammy was excited about seeing his first film on the big screen last week. Now that he is standing in line with his parents, Burt (Dano) and Mitzi (Williams), he is scared of the “giant” characters he will see inside. The marquee reads “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and his parents promise Sammy he will enjoy it. Sammy not only enjoys it, but it also changes his life. As Sammy matures into a teenager, he becomes more and more interested in the art of filming, editing, and creating. Everyone is in awe of his high school experience, boy scouts, and his self-taught talent. As Sammy grows up, his parents grow apart, something he accidentally captures on film. His close relationship with his mother becomes strained as their likeness, which includes selfishness, begins to drive them in different directions.
While there are moments of campy family movie cliches and Williams overacting, as a whole, it’s a sweet film about following your passion when others don’t understand or belittle talents outside the norm.
It’s nearly impossible to dislike “The Fablemans.” In many ways, it’s the most honest film Spielberg has ever made. While there are moments of campy family movie cliches and Williams overacting, as a whole, it’s a sweet film about following your passion when others don’t understand or belittle talents outside the norm. Like “Roma,” a film Spielberg actively campaigned against during that award season, he creates a sort of love letter to his childhood and mother. Mitzi Fableman is one of Williams’s loudest and showiest performances, sure to get her nominated in whatever category they settle on. If she runs as a supporting actress, she has so much screen time she might finally win, which would be a rarity in a Spielberg-directed film.
2022 may very well go down as the year of films about filmmaking. With the movie-going experience threatened by the repercussions of the pandemic, it’s as if filmmakers are producing movies to remind audiences of that special feeling we all get. Cue Nicole Kidman’s “heartbreak feels good in a place like this” AMC ad. Spielberg’s ode to movies is likely to be the most seen, having created something anyone can sit in front of and enjoy. Like his films or not, one of Spielberg’s most extraordinary talents isn’t his creativity or ingenuity but his marketability to the masses. “The Fablemans” might not include dinosaurs, aliens, or sharks, but it’s an origin story of how one of the most respected directors of our time got his imagination from his mother.
Spielberg looks inward to deliver one of his most emotional films.