THE FABELMANS (2022) – My rating: 8/10

Fabelmansposter.jpegThe Fabelmans is a coming-of-age drama directed by Steven Spielberg and written and produced by Tony Kushner and Spielberg. The film was produced by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, in association with Reliance Entertainment. It is a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Spielberg’s adolescence and first years as a filmmaker told through an original story of the fictional Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker himself who explores how the power of films can help him see the truth about his dysfunctional family and those around him.  There is a lot of Oscar buzz around The Fabelmans, so I thought I’d get a jump on all the movies that might be nominated.  I really didn’t find the trailers very interesting but after seeing the movie, I think it was definitely a worthwhile watch.

In 1952 Haddon Township, New Jersey, a Jewish couple Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman (Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) take their young son Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) to see his first film: Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Dazzled by a scene involving a train crash, Sammy asks for a model set for Hanukkah. Sammy begins learning how to use his father’s 8mm camera (secretly given to him by his mother). He soon begins filming regularly, sometimes involving his younger sisters, Reggie Fabelman (Birdie Borria), Natalie Fabelman (Alina Brace), and Lisa Fabelman (Sophia Kopera) in his shoots. After Burt receives a new job, he and the family, along with his best friend and business partner, Bennie Loewy (Seth Rogen) move to Phoenix, Arizona in early 1957. Years later, a now-teenage Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) continues making films with his friends in a Boy Scout troop, which earns him a badge in photography. At this point, Burt sees Sammy’s passion for film as nothing more than a hobby. The Fabelmans get a surprise visit from Sammy’s granduncle Boris Schildkraut (Judd Hirsch),  a former lion tamer, and film worker. That night, uncle Boris speaks with Sammy about compromising his family with his art, telling him that both aspects will continue to be at odds with one another. Currently, Sammy’s only support comes from his mother who believes in his passion.

There is so much to say about The Fabelmans. Firstly, if you didn’t know, the film is based on the true story of Steven Spielberg’s family as he grew up.  Sammy Fabelman represents Steven Spielberg from seven years old through his teen years.  Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman represents Leah Adler, Spielberg’s mother who is also a skilled concert pianist and painter. Burt Fabelman represents Spielberg’s father, Arnold Spielberg who was an accomplished electrical computer engineer. Reggie Fabelman portrays Spielberg’s first younger sister Anne, who has a bitter relationship with him. Natalie Fabelman is based on Spielberg’s second younger sister Nancy, and Lisa Fabelman is based on Spielberg’s third younger sister, Sue. Bennie Loewy represents Bennie Adler, Arnold’s best friend and colleague. FYI: Mitzi really adopts a monkey and brings it home to live with the family.  Mitzi, Spielberg’s mother,  turns out to be an interesting character to whom Spielberg had to give much thought before revealing so much about her in the film.  Almost everything about her in the movie is true.  The Fabelmans was dedicated to Spielberg’s parents. Arnold died in 2020 at the age of 103. Mitzi died in 2017 at the age of 97, and Bernie died in 1995 at the age of 75.  It is also true that Sammy stopped pursuing filmmaking before he even really got started after seeing Lawrence of Arabia because he felt the bar was set too high.

Despite the positive reviews, the film was a box office disappointment, grossing $9.1 million on a $40 million budget, becoming the lowest-grossing film of Spielberg’s career. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 91% of 261 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website’s consensus reads, “Part memoir, part ode to the power of the movies, The Fabelmans finds Steven Spielberg digging at the family roots that helped make him a beloved filmmaker — and proves he hasn’t lost his magic touch.” While The Fabelmans was not filled with action, nor did it inspire a lot of emotion, it was a decent autobiographical film that gave us more insight into one of the best filmmakers of all time.  It’s definitely worth the watch — The Fabelmans is currently playing in theaters — Check It Out!

[THE FABELMANS is Oscar-nominated at the 95th Academy Awards for BEST: Picture, Directing, Actress, Supporting Actor, Music (Original Score), Production Design, and Writing (Original Screenplay) — Totaling 7 nominations]



One response to “THE FABELMANS (2022) – My rating: 8/10

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