7.5/10 Legendary director Steven Spielberg hasn’t worked on a film’s screenplay since 2001’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” as he mainly sticks to the full time job of directing. Yet during down time in the China Virus lockdowns, Spielberg began reflecting on his legacy as he is now at the age of 75. While receiving some help from one of his go to screenwriters (Tony Kushner), Spielberg began writing about his upbringing, childhood, adolescence, his parent’s divorce, what got him into film making, etc. While I’ve remarked in recent reviews that it is now becoming a trend for directors to make films about their childhood upbringings, most of them fall flat as they are more made personally for the film makers themselves as opposed to a wide audience. Luckily, “The Fabelmans” has a broader appeal for anyone who has experienced feeling like an outsider, having their parents tragically split up, been told their career path was a fool’s errand, been bullied at school, etc. There are many universal themes and emotions that Spielberg is expertly able to convey across the two and a half hour running time, which is paced well and didn’t overstay its welcome. The film resonated with me specifically for a few reasons. Growing up in Arizona is something I certainly relate to (he went to the same high school as my mom, aunts and uncle) and getting into films/film making at an early age, showing screenings to his peers and getting a natural high from seeing people react positively to your work are also elements I too have experienced in my life. While I’m thankfully not a child of divorce and didn’t have to move at all growing up, so many aspects felt relatable. Spielberg has often been called sentimental and while some use that word as an insult, I’ve found it usually fits in naturally for his films and this film is custom made for sentimentality. Spielberg’s parents’ divorce had a huge impact on him and his filmography as many of his films dealt with either divorce or separation from one or both parents (everything from “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” to “Minority Report”) and in this film he addresses his own parents’ divorce head on. Obviously his most personal film (Spielberg often burst into tears while on set), “The Fabelmans” shows Spielberg as a young boy being captivated by his first trip to a movie theater and how that obsession would consume him for the rest of his life as he struggles between wanting to please his family while also wanting to take his own path. The acting is fantastic and while the major players like Paul Dano and Michelle Williams as his mom Mitzi and dad Burt are fantastic (they seem to never phone in performances), it was Mateo Zoryan as the child Sammy Fabelman (who is the Spielberg character) and then mainly Gabriel LaBelle as the teenage Sammy who steal the show. A culmination of Spielberg’s entire career, the direction is fantastic and the cinematography and lighting from Spielberg regular Janusz Kaminski is definitely worthy of an Oscar nomination. Since films are simply the combination of light and sound, both of those elements were vital to the film and done expertly. On the slight downside, while the subtle score from John Williams lingers in the background, I wished there was more memorable music from him seeing as how this is his last collaboration with Spielberg (which began 47 years ago with “Jaws”) and his second to last film score ever if he sticks with his plans to retire after 2023’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”. There was also a devoutly religious character who serves as a love interest for Sammy who felt over the top and more like poking fun at Christians as unhinged extremists as opposed to portraying a life like, realistic character. Finally, while I loved the film making aspects that I could relate to, I understand that many people may not be able to connect quite as strongly as I did to the film. That being said, there are plenty of other relatable aspects, tear jerking moments to tug on your heart strings, memorable performances and a deep authenticity on display. Nobody pulls off portraying children on screen and working with child actors better than Spielberg and his talent in doing so is impressive to behold. While unfortunately not having done well at the box office, “The Fabelmans” is worth checking out and definitely a big step up over last year’s disappointing remake of “West Side Story”.

#TheFabelGuy / #BurtAndJourney / #BennieAndTheRegrets / #TheGreatestShowman2 / #TheMitziFits / #Cowboys&AliensFilms

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