The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg is back in the director’s chair with a movie that is very much a fictionalized version of his own younger life in The Fabelmans, revealing an adolescence filled with strife and troubles from his parents.

Growing up in Arizona in the 1950s, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) discovered a love for creating movies. As he continued to do more filming and editing, Sammy discovered a secret that he was not expecting that threatened to create chaos within his family.

Sammy’s parents, Burt and Mitzi, were played by Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, respectfully. Both actors were outstanding in their roles. Paul Dano created a sweet, kind-hearted Burt Fabelman who, while incredibly intelligent, was missing a lot of what was going on around him. Mitzi Fabelman was anything but likable. She was selfish though she had a deep love for her children and had a special relationship with Sammy.

The Fabelmans showed how important movies were to the world, especially the family unit. We see Sammy grow and mature while dealing with the knowledge of the secret that he discovered in his filming. The Fabelmans is a sort of coming-of-age story.

Mitzi Fabelman seemed to be quite the mess. Though it is never specifically mentioned, the film implied that there was some form of mental illness going on with her. Michelle Williams does a great job of still creating a character that can be rooted for despite choices that were really poor. Mitzi was not very likable, but Burt was always kind and supportive, even though he was spending more time at work in an attempt to avoid some issues. There is a question about how much of the secret that Burt actually knows and when he knew it.

There were some tough scenes to watch during this movie, and all of the actors involved did an exceptional job. Seth Rogan is great as family friend Bennie. In the most standout of performances, Judd Hirsch was remarkable as Mitzi’s estranged uncle Boris. Hirsch only had a few scenes in the film and a minimal amount of screen time, but his impact was massive.

The film may have been a touch long at two hours and thirty-one minutes. There are a few scenes of filmmaking that could have been reduced a touch, but there is not a lot that I would want to remove from the screenplay.

Though this movie may not be as magical as some of Spielberg’s other movies, The Fabelmans gave a usually entertaining, at times funny and always poignant look at the years that inspired him to become the director that he is. The complications felt real and left a challenge for the young teen who struggled to find his way. The scenes with the bullies seemed too typical, but I did like how that resolved itself.

Great performances, solid writing and a love of cinema helped to make The Fabelmans another success in the oeuvre of Steven Spielberg.

4 stars

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