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.