<script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script> <!-- Showbiz Portal Bottom 1 300x250, created 10/15/10 --> <ins class="adsbygoogle" style="display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px" data-ad-client="ca-pub-1272644781333770" data-ad-slot="2530175011"></ins> <script> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </script>
Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 2, 2023




‘THE FABELMANS’ is Steven Spielberg’s 33rd movie and it’s a very intimate film and personal tribute to his parents while recollecting his childhood and teenage years.

It shows a boy’s formative years and how his family helped in producing one of the world’s most creative and successful directors. 

It starts in the early 50’s in New Jersey when Spielberg’s alter-ego, Sam Fabelman, is a little boy taken by his parents to watch his first movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth”.  

He is immediately smitten not only with the awesome experience of watching a movie but by the craft and art of movie-making. 

He gets so fascinated with the train crash scene in the movie that he tried to re-create it with his toy trains, using his dad’s 8mm. camera. 

The film shows how good a storyteller Spielberg is, potently mixing humor and pain. 

It works best as an engaging coming-of-age comedy-drama that also celebrates the magic of movie-making. The script is co-written by his frequent collaborator, Tony Kushner, who also did his “Lincoln” and “West Side Story”. 

The cinematography and musical score are by old friends Janusz Kaminski and John Williams.

It’s a love letter to the art of cinema, reminiscent of Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso” that won the Cannes Filmfest and Oscar best foreign language film award in 1988.  

As a coming-of-age film, it will remind you of Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” that’s a homage to the golden days of radio and Fellini’s “Amarcord (I Remember)” that won the 1973 Oscar best foreign language film. 

The film takes you down memory lane in the 50’s and 60’s. Sam’s dad, Burt (Paul Dano, The Riddler in “The Batman”), is an engineer while his mom, Mitzi (Michelle Willilams, nominated four times in the Oscars but has yet to win), is a pianist. Sam has three younger sisters.

Burt gets a new job in Arizona and they all have to move to Phoenix, along with his best friend, Bennie (Seth Rogen, the comedian best remembered for the romcom “Knocked Up”). 

It’s where Sam becomes a teenager (Gabriel LaBelle) and continues making films on his own. 

He takes footage of their family’s camping trips and vacations and while reviewing what he shot, he takes note of the extra closeness between his mom and Benny. He confronts his mom about it and they promise to keep it a secret. 

Burt gets a new job in California so they have to leave the East Coast and move to the west, where Sam goes to a new school where he is bullied by some classmates for being a Jew and they taunt him, saying Jews killed Jesus. 

Sam finds romance in a classmate, Monica (Chloe East), who’s Catholic and tries to convince him to accept Jesus. 

His parents eventually separate, breaking the hearts of Sam and his sisters. He moves in with his dad in Hollywood. 

The film shows Sam’s memorable encounters with two men, to whom he pays tribute. First is his mom’s Uncle Boris (Judd Hirsch), who got to work in films and warms him about future conflicts between his art and his family. 

The other is with legendary Hollywood director John Ford (David Lynch, director of “Blue Velvet” and “Twin Peaks”, this time in an acting role), who gave him a valuable tip about how to frame his shots.

The acting is generally good. Paul Dano is touching as the loving husband who tries to understand his erring wife and a very supportive dad to the budding filmmaker.

Michelle Williams gives another impressive performance as a wife and mother who’s so full of life and bursting with talent but feels isolated as she doesn’t know how to make her talent bloom.  

She even gets to play classical piano pieces by Bach and Haydn and she's really doing the playing herself. For her work here, she's nominated as Golden Globe best drama actress.

Gabriel LaBelle is equally persuasive and endearing as a young man who loves filmmaking but has to cope with the torment of seeing his family falling apart and has to deal with the pains of first love.

The film gives us an intimate, nostalgic glimpse into the life and the past of one of cinema’s most honored directors. 

He may not have succeeded in fixing his parents’ marital relationship but he certainly made peace with the painful incidents he experienced in the various chapters in his life that he shared with us. 

How he is able to patch things up with the school bully who once beat him up with the help of a film he did, Ditch Day, is one of the movie’s highlights. 

Some incidents might be a bit sanitized or Hollywoodized, but who cares? With his stature, Spielberg has surely earned the right to revisit his bitter sweet memories the way he wants to, and that is with so much warmth and understanding. 

Too bad the film didn't do well at the box office. But it's now available on Apple and (VOD) video on demand.