The Fabelmans could have been Steven Spielberg at his strongest but in its confusion ends up fighting with itself.
The Fabelmans, directed and written by cinematic great Steven Spielberg had all the promise of being a tremendous self-retrospective film of how his nurtured upbringing shaped the multi-Academy Award director. However, the film that has since been nominated at the upcoming Academy Awards disappoints in failing to truly understand what story it wishes to tell.
Instead, where the film flourishes is in its character moments between Michelle Williams‘ maternal role, Paul Dano‘s paternal, and Seth Rogen’s unexpected earnest faux-Uncle relationship with Sammy Fableman (Gabrielle LeBelle).
The merging of non-fiction, fiction and truth for Spielberg is disappointingly where the dissolution of cohesion takes place. Undoubtedly Michelle Williams excels with her powerful performance with her beats contained within the fictional narrative thread that Spielberg weaves.
Michelle Williams truly is the standout of The Fabelmans. Her ability to deliver a nuanced, multi-faceted expression in every scene is astounding. To be able to look delicately at the camera, and therefore lovingly at her son behind it, whilst hiding anguish, guilt, and suffering is genuinely heart-shattering.
The non-fiction recounting of Spielberg’s own experiences with amateur filmmaking however applies noticeable brakes, slowing the Lumière train of cinematic discovery to a near-halt.
What is most disappointing is that The Fabelmans had a gorgeous family drama at its core, which if self-contained would be worth celebrating with laurels and the highest of praises.
Yet, adding the sluggish self-reflection feels jarring, as it attempts to fight the imaginative tale as the leading narrative, not understanding whether audiences would be more interested in a family dynamic drama, or a Speilberg docu-drama.
Seth Rogen is also deserving of unexpected praise. The stoner-comic will no doubt cause a re-evaluation with audiences who initially wrote off the crass performer, but in The Fabelmans, Seth Rogen delivers a warming performance and one I imagine will cause many whiplashes from associating the actor with titles like The Interview and Pineapple Express.
Speilberg is a director who has spent his entire career manipulating image, light, and storytelling to present some of the best films ever made. Jaws, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, The Goonies, Schildner’s List.
Each understanding of character, story, and emotion is in synchronous harmony. The Fabelmans however, is not one of them and whilst there are moments that are near-perfect such as the horizon sequence with David Lynch playing classical director John Ford, or the grieving Uncle Boris sequence with Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans, unfortunately, has two strong ideas creating their own dissonance that finds it hard to fully establish itself up there with the greats.
Did you like this review?
Would you like to read more reviews, news, and opinion features sent straight to your inbox? Then, consider subscribing to our weekly newsletter.