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Amanda Glam
home : features : amanda glam
April 1, 2023

12/15/2022 4:52:00 PM
Amanda's Picks

Amanda Glam
Entertainment Writer

The Fabelmans
While not a holiday movie per se, The Fabelmans (PG-13) is a gift to moviegoers from Steven Spielberg. It’s the semi-autobiographical story of Sammy Fabelman, a young boy who becomes so fascinated with movies that he starts making his own.
I did a little research and almost everything that happens to Sammy, happened to Spielberg. Almost. But that doesn’t really matter because nobody tells a story like Spielberg. I doubt an alien visited Spielberg when he was a kid, but that doesn’t make me like E.T. any less.
Like Spielberg, Sammy has an engineer father (Paul Dano), a former concert pianist mother (Michelle Williams) and three younger sisters. Sammy’s story begins in New Jersey when his parents, Burt and Mitzi, bring him to his very first movie, The Greatest Show on Earth (Spielberg’s first movie). The movie inspires young Sammy to recreate the train wreck scene and his mother encourages him to film it. Watching Sammy, you understand so much about why the character is compelled to make movies. You also understand that if that passion was not supported and encouraged by Sammy’s parents, we might never have had Jaws and Saving Private Ryan.
Teenage Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) keeps making movies, wrapping his sisters like mummies, staging battles with his fellow Boy Scouts, all the while dealing with increasingly complicated family issues. His father’s new job moves the family from New Jersey and his grandparents, to Arizona and finally to California, which might eventually be good for Sammy’s potential career, but not so good for the family.
In The Fablemans, if mom is happy, everyone’s happy. The move to California means leaving behind Paul’s co-worker and family friend Bennie (Seth Rogen). Where Burt is practical, responsible and even-tempered, Bennie is funny, passionate and outgoing. Bennie’s presence kept Mitzi from feeling like a bored, lonely housewife who gave up her career to raise her kids. With him not there, she does what any bored mom would do and buys a monkey (yes, Spielberg’s mom bought a monkey).
California isn’t great for Sammy either. His high school is populated by teenagers straight out of yes, the movies, and he’s picked on for being Jewish. Spielberg strays from his real-life by giving Sammy a girlfriend, a devout Catholic determined to date and convert him. She convinces Sammy, who has taken a break from moviemaking, to pick up his camera again. And once again, we can see the passion and thought process that would in just a few years, give the world a director who knew how to masterfully manipulate a movie audience.
Because The Fabelmans is more or less based on fact and co-written by Spielberg, with Tony Kushner, what we see on screen feels absolutely authentic, from the noisy dinners in New Jersey with his Jewish grandparents, to intimate conversations and a senior class “Ditch Day” straight out of Beach Blanket Bingo. When Sammy meets his idol Director John Ford (a genius cameo by Director David Lynch), you might think “Like that would happen.” But guess what kids, it did, basically word-for-word.
Every actor delivers an authentic, believable performance, from Rogen who does the most with his limited screen time, to Judd Hirsch who as Mitzi’s Uncle Boris, literally bursts into the house, corners Sammy for a wild talk about the circus and following your passion and then leaves in a scene that might win Hirsch an Oscar nod.
And speaking of Oscars, Michelle Williams is obviously gunning for one and Spielberg gives her plenty to work with. Mitzi, like Spielberg’s mother, is an emotional, artistic, temperamental force. Williams gets to play guilty, angry, exuberant, heartbroken, nurturing, and she delivers but occasionally pushes it just a bit on over-the-top. Dano, who I normally find annoying, is excellent. But for me, LaBelle is the stand-out as Spielberg’s stand-in. In a daunting assignment of playing a legendary filmmaker for that legendary filmmaker, LaBelle is perfect. That’s it, perfect. With just weeks to go, The Fablemans, Spielberg’s 33rd and his most intimate film, is my favorite movie of 2022.
The Fablemans: 5 out of 5 Stars

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