The Fabelmans: Another Review

The Fabelmans: Another Review

The Fabelmans: Another Review. By Nick Boyd.

“The Fabelmans” is an entertaining, poignant film based on Steven Spielberg’s childhood.  The movie shows the growth of a young Spielberg and his developing love of filmmaking.  

It starts with young Sammy Fabelman seeing his first movie “The Greatest Show on Earth” in a theater with his devoted parents and being both frightened and mesmerized by the train crash on screen.  He then asks for his own train set in order to recreate and control the trains crashing, but his mother suggests using a camera instead so that he can view the scene over again without destroying his toys.  Thus begins Sammy’s love for making movies of his own, beginning with filming the silly antics of his sisters.  The young Sammy is full of mischief, wonder, and curiosity. 



Sammy’s parents are Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano). His mom is a free spirited former concert pianist while his father is a dependable computer engineer, who is good friends with his lively and witty co-worker Bennie Loewy (Seth Rogen), someone Sammy sees frequently at their household, more family member than friend. 

When Sammy becomes a teenager, he is played by another actor, newcomer Gabriel LaBelle. At this stage, Sammy has the usual adolescent struggles, compounded by the struggles of his parents’ marriage and the fact that his family has moved out of state due to his dad’s job situation.  He has difficulty fitting into his new school, especially since he is seemingly the only Jewish family in town.  He gets bullied because of that, although his situation is helped when he meets a sweet Christian girl who becomes his girlfriend and fervently tries to convert him to Christianity, even going as far as having him try to ‘inhale’ Jesus in a scene.  While some might see the scene as too broad in its overly Christian portrayal, I thought that it offered a warm comedic touch.

In another comedic yet poignant performance, Judd Hirsch plays Uncle Benny (a lion tamer), who visits the Fabelman household for a short stay after the death of Mitzi’s mom.  He tries to impart his wisdom and experience to Sammy, especially when it comes to his dreams of getting into show business. 

Sammy’s adolescence is also where he gets better filmmaking equipment and starts making short war films with his peers, mainly his scout troops. They are entertaining and show that he is honing his filmmaking craft. 

While editing a family camping trip by himself that he filmed, Sammy discovers a secret about his mom that devastates him.  He has to figure out what to do with this revelation and the impact that it will have on his family. 

LaBelle gives a breakthrough performance as young Spielberg, making him vulnerable and full of conflicting emotions.  The audience comes to really care about his journey.  As the parents, Williams and Dano are also standouts, giving performances of depth and insight. 

As the movie concludes, Sammy receives advice from a legendary film director that gives him a new perspective.  Overall, the movie provides an effective mix of comedy and drama, and offers a nostalgic glimpse at the Spielberg family, particularly Sammy as we learn what shaped the life of one of the most eminent directors of our time.


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