Spielberg captures the magic of movies as only he can.
Walking out of the theater after watching The Fabelmans it took me a while to process everything I had seen. The story is inspired by Director Steven Spielberg’s own childhood, and it explores many different subjects. The struggles of mixed support about a passion, a dysfunctional family life, and antisemitism, but at its core, it speaks to how powerful art (in this case, movies) can be to help any one of us in navigating through the trials of life. It’s about dreams, and how we shouldn’t push them aside no matter how hard it can be to accept what that may cost.
Like many of Spielberg’s movies, he finds the right balance in the emotional story while peppering in drama, comedy, and joy that all of his coming-of-age movies nail. Also, per the Spielberg norm, he has an eye for exceptional young acting talents in his main lead Gabriel LaBelle. In a movie with Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch it would be easy to get lost in their shadow but LaBelle shines as Sammy Fabelman. You feel for his struggles of having one parent who sees his passion as a mere hobby, and the other struggling to accept that they don’t love their partner. This is all on top of having no escape outside of the home with antisemitism at school.
It may seem I am painting the picture that this is a sad movie, but it’s anything but. Throughout we see the wonder of someone falling in love with their creative expression. We see how this affects his connection to his family, be it his mom, his dad, or his sisters. We even find time for some action set pieces that at once seem insane yet completely in line with the movie’s dance between whimsical and dramatic. It may seem par the course for Spielberg, but it feels different in this story. I also appreciated his peppering in of his Jewish culture exposing me to aspects of childhood that I have never experienced myself.
This is a movie that through all the dramatic and fun moments, comes back to the same idea, Sammy can’t escape, or ignore what he loves. It’s making movies and it’s that theme weaving in and out of all those moments that hit me hardest. As someone who continues to battle with the idea of following your dreams versus what the world at large tells you to do instead, this movie kept me entranced. While I may have known where things would end, I cheered for him to keep on pushing for his dreams, because what else is more magical than that? The Fabelmans isn’t just a love letter to film or a story about his childhood. It’s a charming and powerful reminder that no matter what, you must listen to your heart.
To all you artists out there, watch this movie, and feel that extra hit of inspiration. Spielberg’s got our backs.