Toronto International Film Festival review – ‘The Fabelmans’ is Steven Spielberg’s winning personal film

It must be assumed that those who make films have a strong passion for the medium. Still, filmmakers can come to this love in different ways, and in some cases, it can happen later in life and after time spent later in a career. But for many, and probably most, this pivotal moment happens early and is very formative. Steven Spielberg has been making movies for half a century, ranging from science fiction to adventure to historical drama. His last movie, The Fabelmansis also his most deeply personal, revisiting how his passion for filmmaking grew as a child.

Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) accompanies his mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano) to see his first film, The greatest show on earth. He is fascinated by a train scene and starts filming everything after his mother gets him a camera. As he becomes a teenager (Gabriel LaBelle) and moves with his family from Arizona to northern California, Sammy watches the world through his camera, which shows him the strained relationship between his parents, and struggles to cope. adapt to a new school where he is immediately targeted by bullies.

Sammy’s infatuation with filmmaking is a central theme throughout the film. He deliberately destroys the train his father gets him for Hanukkah to see how he can recreate what he saw in another movie. He has family, friends, and even people he doesn’t know who come to play in his Western scenes or his ambitious World War II projects. His father pushes him to grow up and forget about this hobby, while his mother, who herself struggles to ground herself and find purpose after their move, is more encouraging of something that clearly makes him happy. .

What is actually based on Spielberg’s own life and what is split is indeed a matter of curiosity, but what Spielberg has done here is create an appropriate vision of a young boy obsessed with making movies, a sentiment that rings extremely true for the veteran entertainer behind so many popular films. It’s also a very Jewish film, one that finds Sammy dealing with anti-Semitism despite being the only Jew in his new school, and, much more humorously, entering into a relationship with Monica (Chloe East) whose desire to making him bring Jesus inside him is mixed with hilarious double meanings.

Humor is at the heart of The Fabelmans, and it is a collective effort of the whole to contribute to it. Judd Hirsch has a memorable role as Sammy’s great-uncle, a man who’s in the movies but comes from a very different place than his starry-eyed great-nephew. Dano and Williams balance fun times with drama well, and other cast members, including Seth Rogen and David Lynch, are particularly well suited to their roles. East is wonderful, as are the two actors who play Sammy. While her on-screen parents are significantly better known and receive top ratings, LaBelle makes it seem like this role is lived in and absolutely the star.

Longtime Spielberg fans will probably appreciate that this movie doesn’t look much like a lot of his previous work, but it still feels intimate, personal, and very fitting. Its mid-century setting is transporting and the magic of film reel assembly is vividly felt in every scene. The story also covers much of Sammy’s childhood and the relationship between his parents, and Spielberg and co-writer Tony Kushner know exactly where to end it to leave Sammy’s future open enough while providing clues. satisfactory of a positive trajectory. It’s easy to enjoy The Fabelmansa film that, for its creator, was clearly a labor of love.

Grade: B+

Check out more articles from Abe Friedtanzer.

After its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, The Fabelmans will be released in limited markets on November 11e and everywhere Thanksgiving.

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