Helmed by the legendary auteur himself, The Fablemans gives an insight into the formative years of one of Hollywood’s greatest minds
Last Updated: 10.40 AM, Mar 13, 2023
Story: A young Sam Fabelman realises that he is gifted with the ability to create art out of moving pictures. As he navigates through life and the various challenges that come with it, he finds solace behind the lens of a camera.
Review: Steven Speilberg is the undisputed master when it comes to creating blockbusters. His latest film, The Fabelmans, is a semi-autobiography about his formative years, and it has already earned seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. Despite the obvious concerns as to whether a filmmaker should make a film about himself and if it’s an overindulgent vanity project, the film triumphs as a profound and compelling portrait of one of Hollywood’s most revered filmmakers.
As the film’s central narrative takes shape, it becomes abundantly clear that it cannot be simply dismissed as Speilberg’s attempt at covering himself in glory. On the contrary, it explores the vulnerabilities of a young Sam Fabelman, the fictionalised version of Spielberg. And there is also a significant focus on his parents’ fractured marriage. Both Paul Dano and Michelle Williams are outstanding as Burt and Mitzi Fabelman, with Williams, in particular, phenomenal as a conflicted mother. And it should come as no surprise that Williams has been nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards this year.
At its core, The Fabelmans is a coming-of-age story with an emphasis on existentialism. The story itself is relatively straightforward and lacks any major jaw-dropping moments. The film’s beauty lies in Speilberg’s ability to offer lessons in filmmaking without giving the impression to the audience that he’s taking them through ‘Filmmaking 101’. The narrative draws the audience to the intricacies and nuances of Spielberg’s ingenuity as a storyteller.
The 60s setting is also fundamental to the film’s overall charm, and the narrative also highlights the rampant anti-Semitism in California at the time. Sam Fabelman’s life in high school becomes the focal point in how the narrative addresses anti-Semitism. There is an entire arc dedicated to how Sam’s new girlfriend, a devout Christian, is determined to help Sam ‘find Jesus’. It captures the essence of society’s discrimination against the Jewish community, even in a country that went to war against the Nazis.
Even though Dano and Williams essay the standout performances in the film, Gabriel LaBelle held his own by delivering a compelling performance as Sam Fabelman. Seth Rogen also delivers a memorable performance as Bennie Loewy, and Judd Hirsch’s cameo as Uncle Boris was almost perfect and earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Spielberg and co-writer Tony Kushner may not have crafted the most high-octane script, but their slow-burner screenplay offers a profound story that deserves the nomination it received for Best Original Screenplay.
Verdict: The Fabelmans is understandably a very personal project for Steven Speilberg, and he has given it the care and attention it deserves. The end product is a captivating film that helps audiences gain an insight into the formative years of one of Hollywood’s greatest minds.