Film review, by Jason Day, of The Fabelmans (2022), the biographical from Steven Spielberg based on his family and upbringing and his deeply personal love for cinema. Starring Michelle Williams and Paul Dano.
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Growing up in a loving, middle-class and artistic family, young Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan, Gabriel LaBelle) aspires to become a filmmaker after being entranced by Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). As he reaches adolescence, a secret shatters Sammy’s idyllic life but uses the power of film to help him see truth and deal with his family falling apart.
Review, by @Reelreviewer
Here’s something I didn’t know about Steven Spielberg, a man whose movies I’ve seen and enjoyed since I was a wee nipper. Cecil B. DeMille – maestro of overlong, bloated Hollywood epics – was the man who initially ‘turned him on’ to cinema.
Not John Ford – master of the Western genre, although Spielberg frequently cites him and is seen in this biographical ‘slice of life’ conversing with the great man (played by another great director, David Lynch) – but good ole, perpetually sermonising, sexually hypocritical Paramount scion ‘CB’.
In fairness, The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) is probably CB’s finest (sound) film if we take sense of humour as the litmus test of cinematic greatness. Perhaps the lightheartedness of his big top epic rubbed off, as one could never accuse Spielberg of being humourless.
The Fabelmans is a very long film weighing in at just over two and a half hours. Given Spielberg’s loving hand, his deeply personal but never cloying tone and the skill of everyone involved in achieving the halcyon homage to his history, it’s an indulgence we can allow and enjoy.
It takes a movie nut to get Spielberg’s love for cinema, I understand implicitly where he’s coming from and how those images flicking furiously through a projector can move and thrill you.The Poseidon Adventure (1972) gave me the cinematic bug, and Sunset Boulevard (1950) which showed me the power of faces on the screen and delicious dialogue peppering the air.
Of those people who support this lovely looking and sounding film are Spielberg’s frequent collaborators, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and composer John Williams who, incredibly, is up for his 52nd Oscar (he has won 5 times).
Spielberg’s film is also a love letter to his family. Williams again shows why she is one of the best actresses of modern-day cinema in a complex, psychological role. She’s a joyous, free spirit, fairy-like woman who, in another time and place, might not have settled down and had children, or at least not so early in life. Her character, a loving and an attentive mother, is also self absorbed and emotionally needy – that we understand her needs and don’t judge her is a credit to Williams’ expert acting and Spielberg’s writing.
As the men who are beguiled by her, Dano and Rogen support Williams perfectly and unobtrusively and, as irascible as ever, Judd Hirsch as the uncle who terrified her as a child and suddenly reappear to stay for a few nights.
A round of applause to the younger especially LaBelle as teenage Sammy who uses his talent behind the camera to court a girl at school and win against antisemitic bullies.
For more, see the official website.
Cast & credits
Director: Steven Spielberg. 2hr 31mins. Amblin Entertainment/Amblin Partners/Reliance Entertainment/Universal Pictures. (12a).
Producers: Tony Kushner, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg.
Writers: Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner.
Camera: Janusz Kaminski.
Music: John Williams.
Sets: Rick Carter.
Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel LaBelle, Mateo Zoryan, Keeley Karsten, Alina Brace, Julia Butters, Birdie Borria, Judd Hirsch, David Lynch.