Genius In the Making

The Fabelmans
Stars: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord, Jeannie Berlin, and Connor Trinneer
Director: Steven Spielberg
Scriptwriters: Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner
Cinematographer: Janusz Kaminski
Composer: John Williams
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 152 Minutes

Move over everyone, Steven Spielberg is in the Oscar run this year with a family-insight film of what it is like growing up with parents who divorce. The core of the family is broken, but, as with families, there are other relatives who come to the forefront with help. Such was the Jewish family situation for Spielberg as he grew up to use a camera as a friend and the pictures to tell a story. Of course, in a Spielberg film there are familiars, such as Janusz Kaminski for cinematography and the stalwart John Williams as composer. No one else need apply.

"The Fabelman's"  is the fictional name given to the family which is like Spielberg's own .The young Steven (Sammy in the film) is played by Gabriel LaBelle as a teenager and Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord as a child.   The arguing parents are Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano.) Seth Rogen plays Bennie, Burt’s best friend, who becomes a best friend to Sammy, too.  Judd Hirsch broadly plays a scene-stealing Boris, a great-uncle and former circus performer. David Lynch portrays director John Ford and watch for Connor Trinneer (“Stargate” films) who plays Phil. Yes, Sammy had a girlfriend in school (Monica) and she is portrayed by Chloe East.

Now to the life of the young Spielberg and the story begins when Mom  takes Sammy (Steven) to his first movie, which is “The Greatest Show On Earth” starring Charlton Heston in the lead role.  There is a train wreck here that frightens young Sammy, and later his mother, Mitzi, comes up with the idea of using a 8 mm camera and toy trains to mimic a train wreck, thus putting emotions under control.  It works and a future film director is born though no one realizes it at the time. You wonder how the family fits together with a piano-talented mother and a stoic engineer father.  It is a warm family, though. Eventually, the family moves to Arizona for Dad’s new job, and there is Uncle Bennie, who becomes a sort of surrogate Dad to Sammy In the meantime, Sammy is filming everything and everyone.  This proves a disaster as Sammy discovers his mother is having an affair.  Nothing is the same now and as the years go on, Sammy becomes immersed in film making , becoming popular at school for his prowess in film. 

It is at this time that you know what will happen to a young Steven Spielberg, but we hope there is a “Part 2” to this film. Not only is it telling an intimate family story, but a story that happens around the country with other families. Just substitute sports or music or dance in place of film, and you have the story of numerous famous artists.  Their lives are interesting and productive and the audience wants more.

“The Fabelmans’” shows us how a young man deals with one family crisis after another by using film. You can take pictures and have control over what is on the screen.  In real life, at times, there is no control over situations, but having a substitute helps. Spielberg chose film.  In Spielberg's own life, he had been working for years on a film project about his family. His parents encouraged him, but it is only after they passed away, and many screen accolades later, that Spielberg, along with Tony Kushner, put the lifeline together.

Copyright 2022 Marie Asner