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The Fabelmans

average rating is 4 out of 5


Brian Penn


Posted on:

Jan 28, 2023

Film Reviews
The Fabelmans
Directed by:
Steven Spielberg
Written by:
Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner
Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle, Paul Dano

Steven Spielberg is a rare bird amongst film makers; he will not stand still or rely solely on trusted formulas. The vast majority of directors will stick to familiar territory if it works. Whilst always open to the idea of franchising, Spielberg is never afraid to try something new and move outside his comfort zone. What other directors have made films as diverse as 'Jurassic Park', 'Amistad', 'Schindler's List' and 'ET'? His latest effort is this semi-autobiographical tale of a family from New Jersey in the post-war period.


Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) is a fast rising whizz kid in the tech industry. His wife Mitzi (Michelle Williams) is a frustrated pianist raising a brood of four children. Burt has the chance of promotion but the family have to up sticks and move to Arizona. Mitzi convinces Burt he must take best friend and co-worker Bennie (Seth Rogen) with him. Meanwhile, their son Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) is taking an interest in film making after watching 'the greatest show on earth'. His growing obsession is brought into sharp focus by free spirited Uncle Boris (Judd Hirsch). However, tension builds as Burt drags the family across the country in search of greater recognition. Secrets and lies slowly unravel as Burt and Mitzi argue about their competing ambitions. He is the electrical engineer building a better future for all. But Mitzi is a talented musician with aspirations beyond the realms of suburbia. When they relocate to California home truths begin to arrive by the truck load.


A slow burning narrative does just enough to keep the audience engaged. But the focus lands more on the relationship between Burt and Mitzi and not, as might be imagined, Sammy's burgeoning film making skills. The Fabelmans bear a striking resemblance to the Spielbergs, and badging it in this way seems to make little sense. Nevertheless, it's an intriguing story that demands investment from the audience. The mood of America embracing consumerism in the 50s is perfectly captured; as is the surf culture of California in the 60s. An excellent cast deliver in every respect, but Michelle Williams is undoubtedly the star as Mitzi, a woman who loves her family but desperate to be more than a wife and mother. It's not quite the Spielberg blockbuster to which we're accustomed but it’s good enough.

About the Film Critic
Brian Penn
Brian Penn
Theatrical Release
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