Movie Review: ‘The Fabelmans’ Is Spielberg’s Most Intimate Film Ever!

There should be little doubt in the minds of moviegoers that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time! He might also be the greatest living filmmaker around today. Which makes his perspective on the art of movies and the history that lead him to such a career a truly intriguing prospect.

In many ways, Spielberg’s latest master work is a behind the scenes look into the way he discovered the tricks of the trade he would come to define. It shows us how he fell in love with movies, learned to compose shots, edit film, and speak to actors in order to evoke emotion. It also shows how he discovered the ability to use the camera to illuminate something inside human beings that they didn’t even know they had.

Yet, behind all of the unforgettable scenes of Sammy Fabelman (a fictional name for Spielberg himself) making movies, is a story about a family through the lens of a child. And over the course of this film we find that Spielberg used his lens to soften the blows of his parents marriage. At the same time, the film feels a lot like a man coming to grips with his parents divorce and showing his love for what they gave him.

It’s a very challenging thing to walk a line between revealing the faults of your family and also showing them in the glowing light that we often remember in retrospect. Spielberg tackles this head on. In turn, he delivers a film that feels deeply intimate and beautifully manipulative in only the way Spielberg can do.

This tale starts with Sammy’s parents, Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano) in a line outside the local movie theater. They are going to see ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ and it’s this frightening experience that will begin to shape young Sammy’s cinematic vision going forward. His obsession with using film to concur fear is one of many themes that percolate through the narrative of this movie.

From here we work our way from the age of 8 until around 19. We witness all his moves from Jersey to Arizona and then finally to California. We learn about his brilliant father, his free spirited mother, his loving sisters, and his fathers best friend. And we bare witness to some of the best performances, writing, cinematography, and editing of the year!

The best performance of them is probably Michelle Williams as Sammy’s mother (who likely would have won on Oscar had they submitted her as a Supporting Actress), but it’s really young Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy that  steals your heart. Judd Hirsch also has an unforgettable role as an Uncle that comes to town for one night and fills in some blanks for Sammy.

Yet, the real star of this show is Spielberg. He puts his family, childhood, and style of filmmaking on full display here. This isn’t just an intimate portrait of his childhood, but of his art as well. He gives you a look into how he shaped his love of cinema and how those trademark Spielberg touches became staples of modern filmmaking.

No other director in modern history has transformed movies as much as Steven Spielberg. His contribution to the art of cinema has and will continue to reverberate across time in ways that future generations will never even know. ‘The Fabelmans’ is a beautiful trip inside the young life of that man who has give so much to all of us through the lens of his camera. You won’t find a better experience at the movies this year!

Nathan Ligon
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