The Fabelmans (2022)
Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on December 15, 2022 @ tonymacklin.net.
Movies can be ruined or saved by their ending.
The Fabelmans hits the ground running, spins its wheels, and goes off the road several times. But it comes to an ending that is inspired chutzpah.
The Fabelmans - very loosely related to director Steven Spielberg's own life - is a labored, quixotic film. It's made up of several disparate parts. It's three or four movies.
It's coming of age, dysfunctional family, art versus science, anti-Semitism, the power of control. The Fabelmans has several familiar Spielberg themes - especially alienation and how images distract or connect.
The Fabelmans - written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner - concentrates on Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) - the character who is reminiscent of Spielberg. It follows him through his experiences, as he evolves into a filmmaker and copes with family difficulties and personal assault, both in the family and outside. His family is supportive but both his mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and his father Burt (Paul Dano) have their own burdens.
Sam discovers a secret his mother has, and they agree to keep it a secret. She has a relationship with Burt's best friend Bennie (an almost unrecognizable Seth Rogen). The relationship is the least credible part, but it supposedly actually happened.
Spielberg has collected a serviceable cast. Gabriel LaBelle is effective as Sammy - call me "Sam."
Michelle Williams has a demanding role with several contrasting traits. Mitzi is artistic, depressed, pensive, impulsive, and unpredictable. Williams survives the multifaceted role. Paul Dano is solid as the practical father who has difficulty accepting his son's talent.
Judd Hirsch has a one scene role as Uncle Boris and nails it.
The most surprising actor is director David Lynch who portrays one of the great film directors. He gives the key role heft and style, in the film's most memorable scene.
The Fabelmans is choppy and at times contrived, but Spielberg and Lynch create an ending that is evocative and memorable.
It provides an echo that should last.