By Samuel M Acosta
This review may contain some spoilers for “The Fablemans.”
As someone with a high respect for the art of film, I have no doubt that Steven Spielberg is one of the most influential filmmakers in history. Few people can be given credit for as many blockbusters as Spielberg, having created hits such as “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Schindler’s List,” to name only a few. This man is the role model of so many aspiring directors and writers, all of whom would be content with even a fraction of his success. So when Spielberg announced that he was making a semi-autobiographical film about his life, all eyes turned once more to the silver screen… and what we saw was beautiful.
“The Fablemans” follows Sammy Fableman, played by Gabriel LaBelle, the son of an engineer father and a pianist mother, played by Paul Dano and Michelle Williams respectively. As Sammy begins to become more and more infatuated with making movies, more and more division appears in his family. The Logos and the Pathos sides of the Fableman family begin to clash and Sammy must figure out what side to land on.
The acting in this drama is so incredible and full of depth. Gabriel LaBelle portrays Sammy masterfully, giving a wide emotional range that does not crack under the pressure of its heavy story. Paul Dano and Michelle Williams create a beautifully heartbreaking dynamic that will play your heartstrings like an angel plays the harp. They somehow infuse so much raw emotion into their portrayals using nothing more than the slightest facial expressions, and it creates connections with the audience that make the movie all the more enjoyable. Even Seth Rogen, an actor known more for comedy, brings so much to the table that “The Fablemans” ends up being a banquet of superb acting.
The story itself is heartbreaking, being heavily influenced by Spielberg’s own life. Witnessing how Sammy adored his mother who was a kindred artist, how his parents drifted apart while doing everything in their power to hide it from their children and how he wrestled with the very decisions that all artists face: whether the struggle to make it in the field is even worth it. I felt so moved by the story of Mitzi Fableman and her battle with depression. What made it so compelling for me is that nobody was wholly good nor wholly bad, no black or white. The whole situation was painted in gray, which is exactly what real life is like, and what made me feel so connected to the story arc.
Yet, even with the heartbreaking life details that Spielberg adds, there are some that are fascinating. Seeing portrayals of his early films was entertaining and also motivating to see someone pursue something they love so diligently. Something small and odd that I also found very entertaining is the portrayal of Sammy’s relationship with his high school girlfriend Monica. While there is little information about what is necessarily accurate in this portrayal, the concept of a young Jewish man dating a young Christian woman is fascinating. It added more realism to the film which just added to its depth and beauty.
While there are many ideas that Spielberg presents in this film, one of the most fascinating ones is the age-old scientist versus artist concept. We see through Burt Fableman the side of the scientist, where practicality, tangibility, and logic are revered above all. On the flip side, Mitzi Fableman represents the artist, who favors emotion, beauty, and the intangible power that art possesses. These are two sides that many see as warring with each other in life. Yet, each has its own importance and value in the world. Watching as Sammy wandered between the two spoke to me, as I have wandered that same spot, and so do many others. It was an idea so beautifully presented that it is a prime example of positive messaging in film.
Overall, this is an incredible film that I adored watching. Not only did it speak to me as an artist, but it spoke to me as a person. There is so much packed into this movie about life and relationships and family that it seemingly overflows with messages that anyone can relate to. So don’t just go watch “The Fablemans” to learn more about one of the most esteemed filmmakers of our age, go watch it to learn more about what it means to be human.
I give “The Fablemans” a 9/10
“The Fablemans” is playing in a theater near you
Samuel M Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures.