Film Review: The Fabelmans

The Fabelmans begins with a memorable example – Cecil B. DeMille’s circus picture, The greatest show in the world, which culminates in a train wreck. Sammy is thoroughly shaken by the spectacle and when Burt and Mitzi buy him a model train, he promptly crashes it, much to Burt’s dismay. But once again Mitzi understands. She suggests that he choreograph another pile-up, and her son proceeds to exorcise his fear by filming it with his camera.

The camera becomes Sammy’s extra limb – or rather, his third eye. By filming things, he can understand them better, but these truths come at a cost. It’s the camera that leads him to realize that Mitzi is in love with Bennie (Seth Rogen), his father’s best friend, because Bennie can do something Burt can’t – make her laugh.

Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy Fabelman.

Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy Fabelman.Credit:Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment

While the film is the most personal Spielberg has ever made, full of wistful insights into the tragedy that produced Burt and Mitzi’s mismatched temperaments, it also shows his deep immersion in the genres and syntax of Hollywood film. Alongside the story of Sammy’s life at home is a typical high school film about his misadventures as a Jewish boy who is bullied by the athletes among his California classmates. But here, too, the camera proves to be his strongest weapon, securing his popularity because he knows how to turn his fellow students into movie stars – and villains.

Spielberg has packed all of these things into a deceptively simple narrative that flows so smoothly it’s easy to miss its intricacies. In this sense, his innate ability to translate the finest subtleties into entertainment crystallizes. Film Review: The Fabelmans

Jaclyn Diaz

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