[Review] Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiography ‘The Fablemans’ pleasantly surprised viewers


Tribune News Service

From left, Paul Dano, Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord and Michelle Williams in “The Fabelmans.” Photo courtesy of Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment/TNS.

Ava Jurick, Writer

Released on Nov. 11, ‘The Fabelmans’ is the perfect coming of age story that is actually based on the director of the film, Steven Spielberg. The movie follows his childhood adventures in a middle-class Jewish family.

The film is undoubtedly the most personal movie Spielberg has made. It follows the story of Sammy Fableman, played by Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, and his struggles in high school after moving to a city of predominantly non-Jewish people. He used his love of film making to distract him from the reality of his difficult life whether it was his parents getting divorced or the antisemitism and bullying he faced.

“I expected the film to be about Spielberg’s life in Hollywood but this film discusses his childhood trauma and experiences with antisemitism and family issues,” senior Josh Gordon said.

The film’s cast is astonishing with Mitzi, the matriarch and mother of Sammy, being played by Michelle Williams, who is a pianist and portrays each and every emotion throughout the movie. Throughout the duration of the film Williams had several impressive scenes including a scene that depicts her dancing on the camping trip that their family goes on annually.

Sammy’s father Burt, played by Paul Dano, works for technology companies and does not believe in Sammy’s passion for making movies. This is a very different role for Dano considering he plays villains in most films, but this film definitely showed him in a different but equally impressive way as he is a father figure and kind man.

Although ‘The Fablemans’ is not an action packed thriller that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, the film is still one of my favorites from the past year.

“The movie was an amazing way to see Spielberg’s childhood life and the struggles he went through,” senior Skylar Bons said.

While the film did not do as well as other Spielberg films, the cinematography and the cast made it worth the expense.The cinematography captured aspects of Sammy’s film making through the camera. While the film was positively received, it did not have a large crowd in theaters and only hit about 16.4 million dollars in the box office.

“Being Jewish myself, I sympathize to a much further extent than the average movie character with Sammy Fableman,” junior Lauren Buchwald said. “As he goes through his hardships, it provided a deeper perspective on antisemitism in Hollywood.”

The lighting and settings made the film so unique and personal to Spielberg as the settings were similar to his real life. The film is set in post World War II set in the west coast, primarily in California, and encompasses all that came with that era whether it was religion, clothing or scenery. The whole film encompassed antisemitism and the Jewish religion by showing how Sammy got bullied by his high school peers.

“This was the film that made me want to go to the movie theater again and that old Hollywood movies will make a comeback,” senior Lindsay Nattis said.

The underlying message in ‘The Fablemans’ is that it takes a special person to do what makes them happy against all odds and that Sammy Fableman is that person. The film was left up for debate on whether what happened in the film is true to Spielberg’s real life events.