Spielberg’s latest film is the best of the year

The best film of the year so far is Steven Spielberg’s extraordinary The Fabelmans.

It’s captivating, visually mesmerizing, has an exceptional, well-founded script by Tony Kushner, and is played to the max. An uncompromising Michelle Williams rockets to the top of the Oscar race with an unforgettable performance.

Spielberg’s deeply personal project, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday night, was kept secret for months. All we knew was that the film was based on the life of the famous director and stars Williams, Paul Dano and Seth Rogen.

Movie review

Running time: 151 minutes. Rated PG-13 (some strong language, thematic elements, brief violence and drug use.)

But The Fabelmans is so much richer and less predictable than your run-of-the-mill point A to point B biopic, even though we know the ending is, well, Jaws.

There’s a palpable sense throughout that unlike the director’s recent able films like West Side Story or The Post, Spielberg had to make this one. That he had this idea and these raw feelings that have been dormant for decades. Otherwise it could explode.

The exciting result of his behind-the-camera therapy is one of the director’s best works in years, and a film that feels like a real Spielberg film for the first time in ages.

I will not soon forget the searing image of a stunned little boy projecting an early short film onto his hand.

Papa Burt (Paul Dano) and Mama Mitzi (Michelle Williams) take young Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) to his first film.
Papa Burt (Paul Dano) and Mama Mitzi (Michelle Williams) take young Sammy (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) to his first film.
Universal images

This little stand-in for Spielberg is Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord), whose mother Mitzi (Williams) and father Burt (Dano) star in his first film, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show On Earth. Devastated, Sammy recreates the film’s crash scene with his own train set at his home in New Jersey, and his mother encourages him to film it – unleashing his obsession with Hollywood and filmmaking.

However, this is not a narcissistic film. As the title suggests, the story is very much about the whole family. The Fabelmans move around because of Quiet Burt’s job as a computer programmer and make their way to Arizona first. Oddly enough, they are joined by Burt’s best friend, Benny (Rogen).

Despite childhood difficulties in changing cities, the desert dust and rocks offer teenage Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) a playground to film ambitious westerns and fight scenes.

There’s a fight going on at home, too. Mitzi feels restless and out of place, and while filming one of his short films, Sammy sees something disturbing in the editing room that changes his life. It reminded me, sans murder, of Brian DePalma’s “Blow Out.”

Sammy films the seniors at his California high school.
Sammy films the seniors at his California high school.

What is striking about Spielberg’s memorial film is that unlike, say, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, everyone is treated with so much warmth and compassion. The director feels into his whole character. The only villain himself is an anti-Semitic high school classmate of Sammy’s, who later lives in California. (The whole coming-of-age, John Hughes-y business is a hoot.)

LaBelle, who has mostly played small roles so far, is a stunning find with a bright future. He so tenderly embodies this quirky introvert who channels his fear into his art until it boils over. Spielberg is known for the very real performances he can wrestle from young people. So you can imagine the magic he can create with some version of his teenage self.

There’s also a raucous cameo from Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris, who over the course of an evening teaches Sammy the sacrifices he must make to earn a living in showbiz. He’s hysterical.

The other quick hello that will get people talking is David Lynch. I won’t say what he does. But holy moly. Twitter will tell you soon enough.

But the film is owned by Williams, who said the same “What’s she gonna do next?!” Energy that set the screen on fire in “Manchester By The Sea” and “Fosse/Verdon”. Her performance is magnificent in a film that is simple but undeniably stylized. Williams turns domestic struggles into something big and universal.

Recently, it has become fashionable for directors to make self-reflective films. Alfonso Cuaron had “Roma”, Kenneth Branagh was doing “Belfast” and Alejandro Inarritu had just premiered his “Bardo” in Venice. But it’s Spielberg’s that hit me the hardest.

How profound to say that the path to killer sharks, alien houseguests, T-Rexes, and WWII epics starts and ends with Mom and Dad.

https://nypost.com/2022/09/11/the-fabelmans-review-spielbergs-latest-is-the-best-of-the-year/ Spielberg’s latest film is the best of the year

Emma Bowman

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