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‘The Fabelmans’ - an emotion-filled joyride

By Jack McLaughlin

Staff Writer

Steven Spielberg is one of the most influential directors of the last 50 years. His films have touched the hearts of millions, and his latest film “The Fabelmans” gives viewers insight to where his creative spark came from.

The film does not use his real name or that of his family. Spielberg is personified through the protagonist Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel Labelle), who is an aspiring filmmaker in a family that slowly falls apart during the course of the story.

His father (Paul Dano) is constantly moving around the country because of his work as an engineer, which eventually starts having a strong impact on the whole family, particularly his mother (Michelle Williams).

“The Fabelmans” is an amazing coming-of-age story told by the person who experienced most of it. Spielberg being so closely attached to the movie based on his own upbringing has me convinced no one else could have done this story as well as he could.

Every character in this film gets the chance to have an emotionally charged moment, and unexpectedly one of the best ones came from Seth Rogen’s character, Benny.

Benny, once a close family friend to Sammy, started having an incredibly strained relationship after Sammy discovered he and his mother were having an affair. The last scene they share on screen together nearly brought me to tears, where Benny is desperately trying to make things right with Sammy by buying him a new movie camera.

You’ll lose track with how many amazing scenes Michelle Williams carries. Her scenes with Sammy, especially at the end where she has immense regret for hitting him as a child, articulate perfectly how complicated their relationship is.

Between this film and “The Batman,” Paul Dano has been on a roll lately. His performance here is spectacular. His scenes with Sammy show he is worried about his path as a filmmaker. This father-son conflict is not something we haven’t seen before, but given the context of the story, it always manages to hit emotionally whenever they butt heads about it.

At the end of the day however, their conflicting views doesn’t stop him from caring about his son so much. Another heartfelt moment is in the last third, where he helps Sammy through a panic attack using the same steps he used when Sammy’s mother had them.

Sammy is one of the best protagonists in film this past year. His character takes a particularly interesting turn during the second half, where he loses interest in filmmaking after moving to California.

These scenes that lead into his new motivation to continue filmmaking are hard to watch. He is bullied pretty relentlessly at his new school, being a target for many antisemitic attacks by the bullies.

Knowing that these are likely pretty close to what Spielberg himself experienced growing up, it makes these scenes even more difficult to watch.

Watching Sammy pull out of his emotional pit and reclaim his desire to make films again was enlightening. The amount of fun he had making his graduation film for his class was so delightful to watch unfold, even if he was an emotional wreck while it was being presented after being dumped at his prom.

Sammy’s growth as a person is personified through how he acts as a director throughout his life. From experimenting with a camera as a child to making a big war film with his friends, his growth in maturity is shown through these sequences and it builds an even stronger relationship with the audience watching.

This film excels on a technical level. From a whimsical score by John Williams to spectacular cinematography, there is not a dull looking or sounding moment in the entire film.

Pacing can be inconsistent sometimes. In a near two-and-a-half-hour film, some moments feel a bit dragged out but if you’re invested in the story like I was you will hardly feel these slower moments.

“The Fabelmans” is another incredible Spielberg flick you will definitely want to look out for. The emotional voyage it takes you on has many turns, but by the end you will be filled with a satisfying excitement to pursue your dreams.

A: A touching celebration of filmmaking



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