The Fabelmans (2022)

The Fabelmans (2022)

2022 PG-13 151 Minutes

Drama | History

Growing up in post-World War II era Arizona, young Sammy Fabelman aspires to become a filmmaker as he reaches adolescence, but soon discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power o...

Overall Rating

8 / 10
Verdict: Good

User Review

  • d_riptide


    10 / 10
    The quality of Steven Spielberg’s films over the years will always be debatable but as for the legacy Spielberg has left behind as both a director and storyteller in the last 50 plus years, it remains unparalleled. Needless to say, the buzz was aplenty regarding The Fabelmans, a semi-biographical tale about Spielberg growing up and honing his craft.

    Ok, let’s spare everyone the formalities: YES, EVERYTHING YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT THIS FILM IS TRUE. Now I got THREE films fighting for my top spot of the year.

    In my West Side Story review, I mentioned how not many people can commandeer or take control of an entire production quite like Steven; how not only his soft and quiet but firm handle on natural humanism buoys his chameleon-like style and makes for such an easily adaptable lens but also take the fantasies with the rough edges. With this film, his directing has a personal edge to it, one that often speaks to the soul and conveys the same sense of childlike wonder in navigating this world for the first time.

    Of course it wouldn’t have went as smoothly without these emotionally charged, engaging and tender performances. The adults rarely skip a beat while the younger co-stars hit the ground running and hardly let up; between their morally complicated characters and snappy dialogue, the patter between them showcases the effort gone into it.

    I was gleefully impressed at the pacing; a lot of rhythm and propulsive energy carries over to each scene without disrupting momentum. The runtime goes hand in hand with that too but that comes later. Tone is intrinsically consistent at all times, there’s a cynically clear eye on the overarching structure of the story that develops constantly throughout, visual aesthetic is exuberantly fitting with both the color palette and costumes throughout, the period details are vibrant and exact, the amount of humor and verve present was surprising, John Williams swiftly swoons us with an innocent but ecliptic soundtrack as multiple scenes ‘surrender to the score’ without much of a fight and every shot, every frame of Janus’s Kaminski’s cinematography was carefully, meticulously, lovingly crafted, further buoyed by simplistic, masterful editing and a self-contained production design that resembles a stage play without feeling too staged or boxed in.

    For what is essentially a long session in the therapy couch with Steven, the story never crosses over into being self-indulgent despite being a two and a half hour marathon that breaks almost every known rule of film-making; twisting story arcs, switching tones, teasing out moments that should be quick, and quickening segments that should be drawn out. Outside of knowing the rules well enough to know when to break them, this story also avoids cramming every little detail of his life into two hours and focuses more on his humble beginnings. Spielberg and Kusher’s script is reminiscent of that of a dramaturgy, albeit one tweaked carefully to feel as authentic and vulnerable as possible but also highlights the self-awareness that comes with the limitations within this tightly knotted family dynamic.

    I can imagine Steven dissecting every single scene, not just him looking back at his entire life but looking at us too, reflecting on our artistic drives and the personal responsibility that comes with having to walk through that. This story speaks to those who have often struggled with finding their voice and the experimentation that comes with coping with the hardships art brings us and stays rather tender as everything falls apart around us.

    You can say some scenes are too on the nose with its intentions and feel Oscar bait-y at times but even those scenes are peppered with a splice of generosity and avoid dipping into self-indulgence.

    Could I call this Steven’s magnum opus? That bits debatable and there’s no question that not many others are going to see it the same way others do. But what isn’t debatable is that this victory lap for one of the world’s most successful filmmakers is a well-earned one.