“The Fabelmans”: Spielberg’s Instant Classic


Gabriella Madden

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel LaBelle, Judd Hirsch

Release Date: November 11, 2022

Rating: 5/5

Every so often, a movie comes along that reminds us why we love them. What’s even more special is a movie that reminds us why we love making them. Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film, “The Fabelmans”, is every bit as magical and awe-inspiring as the trailers make it out to be, with stellar performances across the board and downright incredible behind-the-scenes work. 

“The Fabelmans” is the first film Spielberg has had a writing credit on since 2001. For years, Spielberg had wanted to make a movie about his childhood but was always reluctant to do so. Spielberg’s parents, Arnold and Leah, had asked him to make that movie for years, and it wasn’t until the COVID-19 Pandemic that development finally began. With co-writer Tony Kushner, the pair constructed a beautifully moving and humorous coming-of-age story. 

Spanning nearly 13 years, the film opens with a young Sammy Fabelman (played by Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) going to the cinema for the first time with his mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams), and father Burt (Paul Dano). Sammy is enthralled by seeing “The Greatest Show On Earth”, and the magic of movies stays with him well into his adolescence, with moves to Phoenix and Northern California. Teenage Sammy (Gabriel Labelle) has to navigate high school drama, anti-Semitic bullies, as well as the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. 

If there’s one thing Spielberg knows how to do, it’s craft an absolutely epic tale that warms hearts all around. Watching Sammy’s growth from making his first film to running grass-roots full productions was such a heartwarming sight. In a perfect world, I wholeheartedly believe Gabriel LaBelle should be Oscar-nominated for the way he portrays Sammy. LaBelle plays Sammy so effortlessly from a wide-eyed kid with a camera to a young adult starting to believe in the magic of cinema again. 

I was mystified at the way Sammy (and presumably, young Steve Spielberg) was able to come up with such smart and cool tricks during production to make his movies look more real. Sammy used fake blood, fake explosives, poked holes in the film to give the illusion of gunfire, and the list goes on. I wondered why I never did that when I was a kid making video stars on my iPod Touch, then I remembered that’s Steven Spielberg, the best director of all time, and I was a 10-year-old with a Miley Cyrus song.

The scenes set during Sammy’s time in high school were super interesting to me. This is a time in Sammy’s life when nearly everything is falling apart- he’s getting bullied, his family is in shambles, and he has nothing to hold on to. Watching him re-discover his love of film was my favorite part of the entire movie, besides that hallway confrontation scene with Sammy and his bully, Logan. 

“The Fabelmans” is an absolutely glorious time at the movies and reminds us why Spielberg is the greatest director of all time. The final shot, however, is a wonderful callback to a memorable scene with David Lynch (yes, you read that right, David Lynch acted in a Spielberg movie) that shows the master still is always learning.