Steven Spielberg has never been shy about weaving elements of his family history into his movies. He's spoken in interviews about how his Dad's World War II stories shaped 1941 and SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, and how E.T. and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND grew out of the pain of his parents' divorce.
Now, at 75, Spielberg places that experience front and center in THE FABELMANS, along with many other details from his childhood and teenage years. It's his fourth collaboration with the playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, and for the first time, the two share a writing credit. The movie is funny, melancholy and altogether marvelous. From the moment his parents take him to see Cecil B. DeMille's THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, he's hooked and he knows he's found his life's calling.
Shooting in gorgeously immersive long takes with his longtime cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, Spielberg lovingly recreates his early moviemaking memories. We see Sammy shooting monster movies with his younger sisters, using ketchup as fake blood. Later, as a teenager in the early '60s, Sammy, played by the appealing Gabriel LaBelle, will direct a few terrific short films, including a Western and a war picture.
But what makes THE FABELMANS so affecting is that it knows there's more to movies than make-believe. In time, Sammy learns that a camera can see things that the human eye misses, that it can expose painful secrets.
Did it all really happen this way? It's doubtful; like all great storytellers, Spielberg knows the value of artifice and embellishment. But again and again in THE FABELMANS, he uses his dazzling command of the medium to arrive at startling new depths of emotional truth. (Excerpted from NPR).
PG-13, 151 min.
"Spielberg has learned a lot about how to make movies since 1952, but he has never lost sight of why." – ScreenCrush
"The film is a potent memory piece guided by remarkable performances from Michelle Williams and Paul Dano, who are asked to walk a delicate tonal tightrope, delivering a portrait of an imperfect marriage that's heartbreaking in its tenderness." – Screen International
"Spielberg, an incredibly precise filmmaker, never seems certain as to what a movie about his life, or about that of a slightly outsize proxy, should look like, and that uncertainty is actually the warmest and most vulnerable quality THE FABELMANS has." – New York Magaine