The Fabelmans is a relatively restrained film by Steven Spielberg. Standing as a film about the art and love of movies, it tackles complex issues of family, race, ambition and mental health, all through the lens of the camera. Feeling incredibly personal, The Fabelmans explores the love of film in a way few films have done before. While it can feel a bit saccharine at times, the core of the story and the craftsmanship behind the scenes set this film out as a must-watch for movie lovers.
Diving into the film, The Fabelmans wastes no time introducing the audience to its large cast of characters. Starting early on in the life of Sammy Fabelman, the film gives a glimpse at the personalities of his parents Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) and Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams) two vastly different people, both with their own views on the world and love of different aspects of life. Burt Fabelman is quickly painted as a loving and science-focused person looking at how the world works on a technical level. On the other hand, Mitzi Fabelman looks at the art in the world, forgoing the how of something and taking in the many experiences it could bring to her life.
While vastly different, the two aspects helped form the cornerstone of Sammy’s (Gabriel LaBelle) life story. From first viewing, he is a driven kid who fell in love with the art of filmmaking, taking to the craft from both a technical level and deeply loving the art and craftsmanship that goes into each frame we all see on screen. It is shown to be a complex relationship that, at times, he wants to reject, but it is his very core, and despite the many ups and downs he experiences, it helps shape him as the film progresses.
“As much as The Fabelmans is about filmmaking, it shows how art and family life interconnect in ways we may never expect.”
As much as The Fabelmans is about filmmaking, it shows how art and family life interconnect in ways we may never expect. Each moment in real life is captured through the many frames on home movie cameras, movies watched at the theatre, and scenes glimpsed in the editing bay. It is a wonderfully intimate way to tackle complex moments like a family camping trip or a move to Northern California and gives a glimpse at how even with the candid nature of the medium, difficult times can be edited out to make even troubled trips and fights look nothing more than silly moments long forgotten.
With such an intimate and personal film, the acting needed to be on point to connect us to the many personalities on the screen, and it is here Steven Spielberg, and the rest of the crew knocked it out of the park. I immediately felt like I was a family member, getting a peek at the many joys and troubles they all faced. Michelle Williams was mesmerizing in the role of Mitzi, giving a sense of her troubled mental state and the love she felt for everyone in her family. Paul Dano captured the loving but scared husband and father, wanting what is best for his family but never sure how to persevere through the troubles he finds himself in.
The supporting cast equally delivered fantastic performances, with Seth Rogen bringing a truly lovable, if not flawed, character to the screen. While he is often bombastic in his delivery, the restrained take on the character of close family friend Bennie makes it hard to hate him. Even as troubles arise later in the film that force the audience to question their views of his character, he still feels redeemable, despite everything they have seen so far. Even minor characters deliver their all to the roles, with a notable David Lynch scene being one of the biggest highlights, even if it was all too brief.
In typical Spielberg fashion, The Fabelmans is beautifully shot and edited, with each scene looking fantastic while still giving room for some truly memorable shots that will sit with you well past the all too brief time on screen. It takes a great filmmaker and cinematographer to capture these intimate moments while still being able to capture more complex scenes, all with the same tact and grace that makes the movie feel cohesive, and The Fabelmans does that across the board.
The Fabelmans takes its time to explore the complex and many levels that go into filmmaking, and these scenes are blended seamlessly into the story. As Sammy grows up, the complexities he brings to his filmmaking constantly expand, building on the many ways he loves the medium.
From capturing a simple model train crash on film all the way to larger battle scenes, all these moments help set the stage for the growth Sammy experiences in his filmmaking and personal life. These moments also give the audience a glimpse of how his two parents are seen in his work, the technical know-how coming from his father, while the drive and passion for the many ways to bring his vision to the screen coming from Mitzi and her love of creativity.
The Fabelmans is a testament to the power of film and the love of the art. It is one of Steven Spielberg’s most intimate and personal movies, and that love of the story comes through in each frame shown on screen. While there are a few tonal issues as the film progresses, and some scenes that do take away from the core message at the heart of the story, The Fabelmans is a film filled with passion and one that should not be missed.