ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — After watching Steven Spielberg win best picture and best director at the Golden Globes for “The Fabelmans”, I knew I had to see what it was all about. Spielberg being one of the most famous names in Hollywood holds his crown over remarkable films such as “ET: the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Schindler’s List,” “Ready Player One,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Jaws,” and much more. The semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film highlights the ups and downs of childhood through a well-developed story and insightful dialogue. Cinematography paired with polished sound display a crisp picture fit for the silver screen.
Notable actress Michelle Williams (Mitzi Fabelman), and actor Paul Dano (Burt Fabelman) star as the parents of four children living in 1950s New Jersey. It’s no wonder one of the six Oscar nominations for “The Fabelmans,” this year was given to Michelle Williams as she completely immerses herself into the role of Mitzi Fabelman, a loving yet selfish and hopeless mother harboring her own internal conflicts. Paul Dano takes on the role of Mitzi’s husband Burt who adores her but his stiff and practical ideologies get in the way. I marveled at Williams’s ability to display a range of emotions throughout the film, especially in short, imperative scenes.
Judd Hirsch (Uncle Borris) shows off his impressive talent in only one scene lasting about 10 minutes, leading to a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. Hirsch surely displayed a capturing scene that set the tone for the rest of the film, but does it warrant an Oscar nomination? Impacting the film as he did during the short amount of time he was given, maybe it does. On the receiving end of Hirsch’s 10-minute act, is young actor Gabriel LaBelle (Sammy) who gives I would say gave an excellent performance. We see the film through oldest child Sammy’s perspective, as he carries us through his childhood. We empathize with him as he faces an unthinkable family secret, bullying, antisemitism, love, and the decision of what to pursue in life. I couldn’t take my eyes off LaBelle and the emotion he showed whether it be in a comical or a more serious scene. He could be funny, content, upset, or angry all with a high level of talent. I expect to see LaBelle in more highly regarded films in the future as his performance allows the audience to believe he was truly Sammy Fabelman.
Great actors can only take the story so far but being one of the best storytellers in Hollywood, Spielberg was sure not to fall flat with cinematography, dialogue, and plot. Being a semi-autobiographical film, we see the development of Sammy’s (loosely based on Spielberg’s) passion for filmmaking from the beginning. “The Fabelmans” evolve in meta fashion, often telling the story through the films Sammy creates, a film within a film. As a viewer, you’re transformed into Sammy as he absorbs his surroundings and imagination through his camera. The pacing of the film from a young boy to his early twenties doesn’t go too fast or too slow in my opinion. What needed to be told through a young boy’s perspective was told and the majority focuses on his teenage years, arguably the most formative. I also have to note the score by John Williams in this film and how well it pairs with specific scenes. Sounds of the piano rising and falling as emotion builds create tense scenes allowing audience anticipation. Other scenes backed by an orchestra, leave the audience in wonderment as our eyes refrain from blinking.
As in any film, dialogue is written for a reason. Spielberg and co-writer Tony Kushner were careful to implement necessary conversations with the rest of the story shown through talented acting. Growing more mature and defiant, the dialogue presented by Sammy as a teenager to his parents is accurate and honest based on his parents actions. There were certainly parts of the film where I grew annoyed or angry at his parents just as he was for what they did or said. I did notice a majority of scenes with tense dialogue or actions, were followed by a lighter situation being careful not to leave viewers in a constant state of distress. I think this truthfully mirrors a person’s life, having serious or heavy interactions at one point and moving onto laughter and humor remembering not to take life too seriously.
While watching, I inferred the prevalent notion about the impact family and a person’s environment have on their upbringing. Major themes such as family, control, innocence, and passion highlighted at the beginning of the film come full circle towards the end as Sammy follows his chosen path. The ending leaves the audience content for Sammy and how far he’s come, accurately following the coming-of-age formula. Thinking of Spielberg, we remember that Sammy doesn’t just stop there. Relief and inspiration grow as we think about how successful Spielberg has become regardless of the obstacles put in his way. His childhood painted with confusion, anger, and lack of control built him into the great storyteller the world knows him to be.
After reflecting on “The Fabelmans,” the emotional picture is one I would recommend to a friend. Is it my favorite coming-of-age film? No, with films such as “The Breakfast Club,” and “The Sandlot,” it’s hard to compare to the perfection. Regardless, “The Fabelmans,” does garner a sense of relatability as a young boy evolves into a man, learning much along the way. I appreciate how the film provides takeaways and inspiration for creative people especially those hoping to join the film industry. Spielberg shows that despite the abundance or lack of support, people can go through phases of uncertainty before realizing what they already knew in the first place. Coming-of-age films are one of my favorite types of films, although this doesn’t take the top spot, it is one that I could see myself watching again.
House Rating: 4/5
I will be reviewing the Oscar nominated best pictures up until the Oscars in March, so check back to News10 for more movie reviews every Saturday! If you like this film, try “School Ties,” “Lady Bird,” “The Sandlot,” “Super 8,” and “ET: the Extra-Terrestrial.” Check your local theater to see “The Fabelmans,” on the big screen.