actors, directors, Film Spotlight, movies

The Fabelmans or the Michelle Williams Show?

There is nothing earth-shattering about the film. The cleverness is subdued like the title (storyteller). As a coming-of-age drama about a dysfunctional family loosely based on Steven Spielberg‘s life, it seemed, well, as far as dysfunction goes, boring.

Since Pulitzer playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America) has worked with and written with Spielberg before in West Side Story, Munich, and Lincoln, I anticipated a complicated, interesting script. I certainly expected more of an ending with enlightenment or some kind of resolution. Instead, the movie ends abruptly when Sammy turns of age and decides he is going to be a filmmaker.

But didn’t we know that from the opening shot when Sammy the boy with Autistic tendencies becomes obsessed with films?

Since it’s semi-autobiographical, I thought a script focusing on his famous films and the process of directing would have been more interesting. As a man who is revered for most of his career, whether you are a fan or not, I would have enjoyed that journey story more. For example, the behind-the-scenes, story behind the curtain is popular. Take The Godfather for instance.

Have you seen the new series about Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy‘s experiences of making The Godfather (1972) called The Offer? Sensational. It’s on Paramount.

There was a lot to like about The Fabelmans. Let’s talk about what was good. Michelle Williams. Watching her over the years, I am impressed with each performance. At times, she is magical. She is dedicated and daring. I think she’s underrated.

I loved her as Marilyn Monroe. I was not expecting to like her, but she pulled it off–hip additions and all. She captured Marilyn’s vulnerability and her smartness.

Another leading role that socked it to me was her portrayal of dancer Gwen Verdon. Synopsis: Fosse/Verdon explores the romantic and creative partnership between Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams). He is a visionary filmmaker and one of the theater’s most influential choreographers and directors. She is the greatest Broadway dancer of all time. Only Bob can create groundbreaking musicals that allow Gwen to showcase her greatness. Only Gwen can realize the unique vision in Bob’s head. Together, they will change the face of American entertainment – at a perilous cost.

Well, perhaps five decades was a bit much to cover, and it’s hard to think of anyone other than Roy Scheider (Sorry, Sam) acting as Bob Fosse (All That Jazz), but the grit and energy of Williams was a brave undertaking. She’s worth watching on FX or by renting the series.

Getting back to The Fabelmans, it could be stated the film is not a coming-of-age story about Sammy. It is more about Michelle Williams‘s portrayal of the effervescent Mitzi who is restricted from pursuing her dreams because she is expected to stay home and take care of the kids. Her potential is denied as a concert pianist. Mitzi is childlike, a Tinkerbell, who leaps and giggles while her husband Burt (Paul Dano) is a brilliant scientist but can’t reach her emotionally or virilely thrill her like Benny (Seth Rogan). What’s a wilting flower to do?

The best part? The technical aspect of Spielberg’s affair with filmmaking. Each step of his age introduced him to a bigger and better movie camera. The art of editing was expertly filmed–the process of cutting and looking at life through the lens of a camera was fun for me.

For a boy who has issues expressing himself verbally, the camera is Sammy’s way of expressing what he sees and feels. Sammy controls his world and that’s the thrill of being a filmmaker. The power to manipulate the film to create a mood and tell a story is addicting. Sammy’s soul is behind the camera documenting his life the way he wants it to be.

One of Spielberg’s best decisions as director was shooting the face of Michelle Williams when her character sees a film her son made of her. It’s a pivotal moment in the film. She has sinned. She is caught on film by her son. We watch her face react to his film. The range of emotions she expresses is why she’s nominated as Best Actress. It’s worth a watch. 4/5.

48 thoughts on “The Fabelmans or the Michelle Williams Show?”

  1. She’s terrific. The film is decidedly NOT. A love letter to his own brilliance? A somewhat hate-filled screed against his Mom? Oh, and tell me ONE TIME the captain of the football team broke down in tears because the “picked on” kid was nice to him? That barely scratches the surface of just how pretentious this film is…sorry, but we were insulted to have to watch this

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just wanted the movie over 30 minutes before it ended. I couldn’t believe Spielberg embellished it like he did. Michelle Williams is great in bits, like Brokeback Mountain and Manchester by the Sea. I think she was the most interesting character here, but that’s not saying much for the movie.


    1. He was trying to do an Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen film and he sucks. He should have stuck at what he’s good at, which he hasn’t done for a while. Now all the praises for an obscenely loathsome ‘I’m great’ film. The greats don’t do that.


      1. There are about five Spielberg films I think are excellent. Most of his filmology is not great. Many mediocre. Several bad. Still, he was active during the time in cinema when the studios were still around and filmmaking was interesting. That time in Hollywood fascinates me. In the end, he walks down Paramount studio with the attitude “Ok, I’m going to be great!” That’s where the film should have started.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have about 10 movies I love from him. I think he made an incredible impact on culture and the movie industry. Him, at his best and doing what he was good at, is probably the best I can recall. Raiders of the Lost Ark remains my favourite adventure movie.

          I can’t even see an interesting movie of him after entering Paramount. We have great video docs and makings-of showing him and the process. I just dont understand the point of him doing this movie.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I love Duel, Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Empire of the Sun, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Bridge of Spies, Minority Report & Catch Me If You Can..Oh and Schindlers

            Liked by 1 person

          2. A lot of great films. I am not surprised he is considered a legend, whether I agree or not. I’m not surprised he made a film honoring himself. But, it wasn’t really. To me, whether he meant it or not, it felt like a movie about a boy with anger issues with his mother. Not a nice tribute to her. Regardless, I appreciate your input!

            Liked by 1 person

          3. How about Shrek? He may not have directed it, but he spotted the the story more than a decade before he got it made, and had a pretty active role in producing it?

            Cindy, what I’m sure is that my next step is to look up The Offer: thank you for the recommendation and the terrific description and discussion!

            Liked by 1 person

          4. I did not know his involvement in that as producer. You make a good point. The man is a major player for decades in Hollywood.

            The Offer! I’ve watched only two episodes, it might derail itself, but I’m mesmerized with all the players and how it was put together. It has the same feel as “Feud”. Did you see that series about Joan Crawford and Bette Davis played beautfully by Susan Sarandon as Davis and Jessica Lange as Crawford? 2017. Dynomite stuff about Hollywood and their relationship as dames.
            Anyway, The Offer is like that.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I tink if I come across it, I might give it a go. You said early on that it was “it seemed, well, as far as dysfunction goes, boring.” After that though, you did mention quite a few things that sound pretty interesting, not least that old problem for a woman in this era of “own talent v child production”


  4. To be honest, I have no interest in watching The Fabelmans. Despite occasional unquestioned brilliance, Spielberg is often hampered by the uncontrolled sentimentality in his films.
    However, I did watch Fosse/Verdon, and was gripped by it.
    Best wishes, Pete. x


    1. Yay! I’m glad you were gripped. So was I. I love Williams dancing. In my mind I group her with Renée Zellweger for looks, talent, and dancing. Michelle always wins. Williams has more depth.

      Yes, Spielberg is hampered down with his uncontrolled sentimentality. Well put. His Science Fictions seem to keep him reined in.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tony Kushner is a horrible playwrite, and his three scripts for Spielberg resulted in three of Spielberg’s worst movies, and considering that Spielberg is one of the worst film directors on the planet, that is pretty bad. They both should have been kicked out of their respective unions for what they did to West Side Story. As for Michelle Williams, she learned early that the best way to disguise your mediocrity as an actress is to do as little as possible to draw attention to yourself. She is generally a flat and inoffensive presence on the screen because of this wise choice of near invisibility. I wont see Blonde because i have no interest in that horrible creature Marilyn Monroe.


    1. it is not venom unless your purpose is to kill. i think the art of the hyperbole has been lost among pussyfooting of my favorite critics is john simon, who hates almost everything i love, and is scorned as a hateful man, which he is not. one of my most memorable experiences as a critic was when, after a lunch break in a critical symposium that included every one from the famous to the obscure (me) john simon and benedict nightengale had each taken one of the doors to the theatre and were holding it open for the other, each gesturing for the other to go first, and while these two giants of film and theatre criticism were holding open the doors for each other, i scooted in between i can honestly say that simon and nightengale held the doors open for me.


      1. Bill, funny story. Say, I distinctly remember a post you made about your admiration for The Misfits, Marilyn Monroe. One of our first conversations was about a post I did concerning Marilyn.
        10 years later, and she is a monster. BTW, Blonde is depressing melodramatic and shallow…


        1. yeah she was good in the misfits because she was playing her real self, as perceived by husband arthur miller. but she ruined some like it hot. it would have been so much better with the talented and funny shirley maclaine, whio had good rapport with jack lemmon. marilyn is always on her own, on space station zero. by the way, concerning michelle williams, i rate an actor on their ability to execute certain things necessary to the character they play. i dont htink she has the technique to pull off leading classic roles such as nina in the seagull, desdemona in othello, or Laura in the glass Menagerie. but she is perfectly capable in supporting roles in hollywood movies.


          1. Perfectly capable in supporting roles. That is true. But I think she has the technique. You can’t see her as Blanche in Streetcar or as Lady Macbeth, or Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Give her the chance, I think she’d surprise you.


          2. i have been watching her for over 20 years now and she hasnt surprisied me once. she is a likable actress with a limited range, and i dont see that changing over night. you mentioned roles for older women, i had mentioned roles for women of her age or younger, and if she cant play nina, desdemona or laura now, she wont be able to play martha, lady macbeth, or blanche later. mediocre does not meanlook bad, it just means average. look at cate blanchette, she was brilliant 25 years ago as elizabeth and she is a master now as tar. she was never an average, second tier player.

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  6. Great post Cindy 🙂 I have not seen this film yet so I can not offer my two cents. Nevertheless, in very early June I will be doing a blog entry on Marilyn Monroe, who I consider to be one of my many favorite Classical Hollywood era stars. Aside from celebrating her films, I will also celebrate her as an icon and an actress. I agree with you that Andrew Dominik’s film Blonde (he also made snide comments about her) did a great disservice to her. I am similarly repulsed by Bill White’s description of Marilyn as a “horrible creature”, which I think is totally uncalled for. She is far from it. I know should not be rambling on or making this reply all about myself, but I needed to step in and give in my two cents at least about Marilyn Monroe 🙂


  7. Thank you Cindy for liking my blog entry on Ava Gardner 🙂 I am sorry that wordpress is not excepting your comments, which is strange, but did you want to talk about anything in particular regarding Ava Gardner on here since wordpress is not excepting your comments (for some odd reason) on my site? 🙂


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