Set over the 50s and 60s this rather poignant, nuanced, if uneven portrait of the making of a ‘boy wonder’ from Steven Spielberg, may not rise to the level of last year’s Belfast but still has plenty of relatable ballast from those formative years.
In The Fabelmans the main trio of son Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle), former virtuoso pianist Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and engineer father Burt (Paul Dano) are caught up in a desire to pursue moviemaking. Enthralling scenes lure an onlooker into what has propulsion even with digressions to become a satisfying journey of joy filled with sorrow.
LeBelle is a young find as the surrogate, but an understated Dano and notably a rangy, all-out Williams really excel as a couple who espouse much from heartbreak. Also, in this semi-autobiographical upbringing fine supporting turns come from Judd Hirsch as well as Seth Rogen’s charming if drastically influential Benny and an unexpected burn from all people, David Lynch, as a veteran iconic moviemaker.
The Fabelmans may be more than a stylized look into the passion of cinema in its digressions from family drama. A self-reflective, nostalgic Spielberg has his Belfast or Roma that he needed to make with West Side Story scenarist Tony Kushner and master technicians like Janusz Kaminski and John Williams. You’ll be glad you got to know someone whose story really started and ended with his parents before sharks, aliens, and T-Rexes came along.