“The Fabelmans” is a beautiful film on multiple, Oscar-contending levels.
One minute it’s a family film about messy parents and talented children, the next minute its about racism and antisemitism. Then, suddenly, the film pivots when a crazy uncle arrives (Judd Hirsch) and starts dishing out advice on a grand scale.
Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Schindlers List, Munich) reaches back into his own childhood memories of his struggling family at his most impressionable time.
He dreams of making movies and eventually is gifted a super 8 camera. Before you can say, “train wreck,” a young Spielberg is running his Lionel trains into each other while filming the process to his mother’s delight, played with wanderlust and luminescence by Michelle Williams.
His father, a numbers-crunching scientist, played with precision by Paul Dano, dreams of bigger things for his son and for himself. He considers cinema a hobby, and it’s obvious he might also be wrong about his marriage.
“The Fabelmans” eventually end up in California, and Spielberg is now a smart, promising amateur filmmaker with better equipment while learning to create and cope with a high school full of bullies.
Everything about “The Fabelmans” works, and when you get caught up in it’s emotional content, it’s easy to overlook what a well-written, well-crafted film Spielberg has created.
John Williams’s music score, featuring some exquisite classical notes, is a marvel, and Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography (Schindlers List, Saving Private Ryan) is deceptively dazzling.
As for Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans” feels like a little movie compared to his long list of event-style films, fitting perfectly into his cannon of remarkable work.
After all, it’s a film about his young life, told through the lens of memory about growing up wanting to make movies.
And indeed, he did.
- Gary Cogill