Steven Spielberg is the movie industry’s ultimate protagonist, an influencer of the coming-of-age narrative, and an auteur of visual storytelling. Born into the Spielbergian suburbs of the 80s, I was blessed to grow up with his imagination and knack for child-height thrills. Little did I know that Spielberg instilled a tiny moviegoer in me in search of something relatable and empathetic on the screen. I was in awe while he was just being nostalgic.
With Spielberg’s latest in The Fabelmans, everyone is allowed to be nostalgic. Your first movie in a darkened theatre, first kiss, first bully, and the first time you realized your family isn’t perfect — these are all memories held dear and sometimes encapsulated best by the rose-colored or starkly black-and-white medium of film.
Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical journey follows Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle in his breakout role) and his blossoming passion for making movies. As his cameras evolve, and he masters his editing skills, it becomes obvious that Sammy’s eye for the lens can communicate clearer than the spoken word.
Although the origin of Steven Spielberg—the movie director—is the prominent focus, none of his artistry could exist without the love, dysfunction, and ethical battlegrounds within his family.
Michelle Williams as Sammy’s (Steven’s) mother is the tender heart of the film. She carries a burden too big for an adolescent son to understand but too great an opportunity for reconciliation to ignore. Williams is tremendous, and her performance accomplishes the emotional impact the movie needs at points.
Spielberg’s from-memory tale is informative of the cinematic genius we enjoy today but slight in overall production value and poetic interpretation. Several of the footage shot-to-screen moments come off redundant, and surprisingly, there is very little grace and glory from John Williams, who has been providing groundbreaking music for Spielberg since the ascending minor second in Jaws (1974). These holes are felt sporadically, and the disconnect might be in translating something personal to something entertaining to the audience.
Still, at its warm and sincere center, The Fabelmans is not just the reason we go to the movies, but the reason we seek a world comfortably close to our own. Spielberg has always been a master at blending the empathy with the escape in his movies, and The Fabelmans provides the reason why.
**** out of *****
Thank you for reading,
Also, I realize it’s a daunting task, but feel free to share your Top Five Favorite Steven Spielberg Movies of All Time. Mine are:
- Jaws (1975)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
- Schindler’s List (1993)
- Jurassic Park (1993)