The Fabelmans (2022)

fabelmans poster 2022 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good drama

Predictable in story, feels like it is made to please everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Fabelmans

Studio:  Amblin Entertainment/Amblin Partners/Reliance Entertainment

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  September 10, 2022 (Toronto International Film Festival)/November 11, 2022 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

fabelmans train movie young sam

Birth of a dreamer and an artist?

Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) grew up with a dream.  As a young child seeing The Greatest Show on Earth, Sam (Mateo Zoryan Francis DeFord) discovered movies gave him an outlet for expression and a way to control the world around him.  While his mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) who trained as a pianist loves art and the freedom it gives, his father Burt (Paul Dano) an engineer and early computer developer sees the value of science with filmmaking as a hobby.  As Sam gets older, his movies and life get more complex, and Sam is finding his way while realizing the adults around him are also still learning the ways of the world.

Written and directed by Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans is a drama with semi-biographical aspects.  Following Spielberg’s West Side Story in 2021, the movie was released to strong reviews but underperformed at the box office.  The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Michelle Williams), Best Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsh), Best Original Score, Best Production Design, and Best Original Screenplay.

The Fabelmans is one of those film that I know I’ll see, but I dread seeing.  While Spielberg was everything as a kid growing up, Spielberg’s modern film often have a sappiness that seems to try to appeal to everyone.  The Fabelmans falls into this category, but like most of Spielberg’s movies, it is great at what it does.

fabelmans michelle williams paul dano seth rogan

At least grownups can be counted on…or not

The story isn’t a biopic of Spielberg, but it is close enough to be a quasi-biography (and allow people with knowledge of Spielberg’s background to point to certain events).  The beginning starts out a bit schmaltzy with a lot of glow and shine (intentionally), but warnings of things to come creeping under the (seemingly) happy family.  The movie’s second half is stronger as the strife comes in, and Sam begins to make his own path in the world…and learns how to find and manipulate an audience (as smartly seen in the school prom sequence).

The cast is good.  Gabriel LaBelle is strong as Sam and seems to have more range than the movie allows him to have.  Michelle Williams is a standout as his mother the “artist” who is arguably the star of the movie since Sam seems to be almost telling her story more than anyone else’s.  While I like Paul Dano and I realize he has the harder role, I feel his “scientist” approach is a bit too wooden which is the point, but I think there needs to be more range for his character.  Seth Rogan plays the obvious best friend that is clearly into Williams the entire time.  The biggest scene stealer is Judd Hirsch as the uncle who both shows the joy of being an artist and the drawbacks…followed by David Lynch as a small but important role.

fabelmans projector sam fabelman gabriel labelle

Bringing imagination to life

The movie is crafted with beauty and love by Spielberg.  This is good, and the movie seeps with nostalgia and emotion.  Sam shows the innovation that Spielberg showed in early movie by working ways to work outside of his budget to make great movies…but sometimes it feels like Spielberg has found his look and stopped innovating.  It is a perfect look, but I do miss some of his surprises.

The Fabelmans is a very good film, but it feels like a movie meant to please everyone.  It dips into areas like anti-Semitism, bullying, and relationships between adults, but it never really crosses the line with them or allows you to get past the point of unbearable uncomfortableness.  What it does best is show how Spielberg learned how to do this type of movie.  It is a movie that does please everyone…which can be both a praise or a backhand depending on how you look at it.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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