Film Review: “The Fabelmans”


  • Starring:  Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle and Judd Hirsch
  • Directed by:  Steven Spielberg
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 31 mins
  • Universal


A young boy goes to the movies.  What he see’s has such an impression on him that he makes film a major part of his life.  That young boy could never have known that 2 hours in the dark would change his life forever.  I should point out here that the young boy in question is me and the movie in question was “Jaws.”


New Jersey.  1952.  Young Sammy Fableman (LaBelle) is taken to the movies to see “The Greatest Show on Earth” by his parents, Mitzi (Williams, in an Oscar-worthy performance) and Burt (Paul Dano).  Burt is a scientific engineer, so instead of explaining movies in terms of enjoyment he spouts off about how the film runs 24 frames per second, giving still images the illusion of movement.  Despite his father’s description, Sam is mesmerized by the film, especially the famous train crash (oops, SPOILER ALERT!).  He plays the scene over and over in his head when he gets home.  When he receives a train set for Hanukkah you can see the wheels turning in his head.  Especially when he picks up his fathers 8mm movie camera. 


An obviously very personal film for Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans” could easily be compared to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” – without the naked women, of course.  It is rare for any filmmaker to give such an inside look at his life, and while this isn’t a true bio-pic, there are many similarities between Sam and Steven.  His mother was a very talented pianist and his father instrumental in the development of the computer.  Williams even wears her hair in the same style as Leah Spielberg.  But there are enough little changes in the story to make the audience wonder “did that really happen?”



The film is buoyed by an amazing cast, all at the top of their game.  Williams is stellar as a woman who has put her own creativity on hold to encourage her husband.  Dano excels as a man who truly loves his wife but can’t see the proverbial forest through the trees.  He constantly refers to Sam’s passion as a “hobby” and it’s obvious he doesn’t understand.  Supporting work by Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch helps flesh out the story.  And special praise indeed for young Mr. LaBelle, who just turned 20 this past weekend.  It would be nerve wracking enough to have your second major film directed by Steven Spielberg but to ALSO be playing the director…Yikes!  LaBelle approaches the role with the same wonder that Spielberg must have had as a young man.  It’s a beautiful performance.


With all Spielberg films, the production values are first rate.  And it’s so nice to once again see a Spielberg film accompanied by a beautiful musical score by the great John Williams.  Spielberg and Williams.  Takes me back to “Jaws.”


Like Spielberg, I made short films throughout high school but that’s pretty much all we have in common.  Though I did notice that he’s #22 on the Internet Movie Data Base STAR METER while I’m listed as #965,422.  Close. 

One Reply to “Film Review: “The Fabelmans””

  1. Paul Dano will (should) win numerous Oscars in his career as has/will Michelle Williams. Touching movie, a bit slow at times but I enjoyed the methodical pace.
    Very true to the real story. Steven’s father was kind of the hero of the real story. His love for his wife was so strong he let her go.

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