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Film: "The Fabelmans"
"The Fabelmans" tells the story of Spielberg’s upbringing through the character of Sammy Fabelman, a young boy enamored with the idea of making movies.
Out of the many directors who have left a profound impact on both the filmmaking industry and the general moviegoing audience, few have gained the level of respect and notoriety that Steven Spielberg has. With an impressive filmography encompassing many renowned films from the 1970s all the way until now, he has become a household name through the appeal of all-time classic movies such as E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Schindler’s List. Given his high level of notoriety, it was only a matter of time before a film was made about his life, and honestly, who better to have behind the camera than the man the film is about?
The Fabelmans tells the story of Spielberg’s upbringing through the character of Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), a young boy enamored with the idea of making movies. Under the guidance of his loving, but stern, father (Paul Dano) and artistic mother (Michelle Williams), he explores his passion, discovering a lot about himself and his family in the process of pursuing his dream to work in the film industry.
I think The Fabelmans gets a lot right, but the main area in which I think this movie succeeds is in the way it slowly ropes its viewers into the story it tells. The main plot of the film is essentially one that revolves around a young boy discovering what exactly it is that he’s passionate about in his life, and that’s absolutely something that I was able to connect with. The idea of making movies is not something that everyone is going to be able to connect with, but there’s a certain universality to how this movie explores the purpose that we give our lives. We see Sammy’s ambitions bleed over into the other areas of his life, such as his relationships with his family and friends, and in some cases, it even serves as an engine for conflict. It’s a very interesting way to show the different sides of commitment to a dream, and I appreciate the way this movie shows us the obstacles Sammy must overcome and the sacrifices he must make in order to achieve his passion.
Gabriel LaBelle delivers a fantastic lead performance as Sammy Fabelman. The movie asks the actor to deliver a lot of emotional range to the way he portrays this character, and for the most part, I believe he is able to deliver. It took me a little while to buy into Michelle Williams’ performance as Sammy’s mother, Mitzi Fabelman, but eventually I was definitely able to appreciate the way she portrayed this well-meaning-yet misguided-character. Paul Dano, too, is excellent as Sammy’s stern, yet caring father, Burt Fabelman. I also appreciate the wholly objective lens this movie uses to display these characters. It’s not at all afraid to show you their flaws and mistakes alongside their good qualities, and I found that to be a very real, three-dimensional way to showcase the family dynamic. Even Sammy, our main lead and the main point of view through which the audience experiences the story, is not above reproach. We’re shown the ways in which he comes up short, and I believe this helps the movie to feel a lot more honest with itself than it would have otherwise.
All of this being said, I don’t think The Fabelmans is a perfect movie. There are a few things that I feel hold it back from being as good as it could have been. The first act of the film starts off on a bit of an awkward foot. Its structure felt a bit sloppy, and the pacing of the story progression in this segment of the movie didn’t feel as natural as I felt it should have. I also think the movie’s focus tends to wander a bit, making it hard to discern the main idea behind the sprawling narrative in a few stretches. There is also one extended sequence in the movie that, from a writing point of view, comes across as quite sacrilegious, and I do feel I should give fair warning about that.
However, my subjective negatives set aside, I think The Fabelmans is a very special film. I love the way it highlights the impact our dreams have on us, how they shape us as individuals over the process of our adolescence, and the ways in which they spread over into the other areas of our lives. This is a movie I would absolutely recommend giving a watch. In spite of its flaws, I think it has something for everyone to take away.
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