Watching The Fabelmans takes you back to India’s official entry to Oscars – Pan Nalin’s ‘Chhello Show’, which is alleged to be similar to ‘Cinema Paradiso’. Chhello Show tells the story of a 9-year-old kid Samay. His parents take him for his maiden movie experience that gets him absolutely mesmerized by films and filmmaking, to the point that he decides to become a filmmaker, unaware of the heart-breaking times that await him. Samay leaves his parents and moves with his uncle to pursue his passion for films like Samuel Fabelman whose parents separate, his heart is broken but life goes on.
The Fabelmans is a coming-of-age family drama directed by Steven Spielberg, who co-wrote it with Tony Kushner. The film is a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Spielberg’s adolescence and formative years as a filmmaker, told through an original story of the fictional Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), a young aspiring filmmaker who explores how the power of films can help him see the truth about his dysfunctional family and those around him.
One night a Jewish couple Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) take their young son Sammy to see his first film: Cecil B DeMille’s ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’. Dazzled by a scene involving a train, Sammy asks for a model set for Hanukkah, which he crashes late one night. Mitzi, understanding Sammy’s intentions, allows him to shoot another crash scene using Burt’s 8mm camera.
Sammy’s electrical engineer father Burt describes the technology (Persistence of Vision) that makes the images come alive, while his concert pianist mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) gushes that “movies are dreams that you never forget.”
Sammy soon begins filming regularly, sometimes involving his younger sisters Reggie, Natalie, and Lisa in his shoots. Burt is offered a new job in Phoenix, Arizona, and he and the family move there in early 1957; at the insistence of Mitzi, Burt’s best friend and business partner Bennie Loewy goes with them.
From a kid to a young adult Sammy (Sam), he progresses as a film enthusiast and looks for opportunities to film. From making films with his friends in a Boy Scout troop to a family camping trip capturing footage of their vacation to their school Ditch Day at the beach. From each of his filming experience, he learns something more, sometimes favourable and unfavourable at others. While editing his family camping trip, he stumbles upon something that ends up breaking the family. His parents call it quits and divorce. But that is not the end of the story though…
Point of View
Through the narrative, of Sam making movies, he is subjected to various experiences. As a movie maker Steven Spielberg has very emphatically showcased that the finer details of what gets captured on a camera can have varied meanings and effects. For instance, while editing their family camping trip, he stumbles upon his mother’s (Michelle Williams) liking for their family friend Bennie (Seth Rogen). Whereas when he makes the movie for his school Ditch Day, he presents two distinctive persons as absolutely contrasting personalities – good and bad – through his narrative. And this annoys and upsets both. And not to forget the last scene that teaches him the meaning of how to capture things on a camera.
Steven Spielberg is a major figure of the New Hollywood era and pioneer of the modern blockbuster, as the most commercially successful director of all time. Steven had the inclination of telling his family’s story almost two decades back but refrained thinking how his parents would take it.
Steven Spielberg, who is known for his typical films involving sharks, wars, dinosaurs, swashbuckling archaeologists, extra-terrestrials, etc. Steven Spielberg’s films are wide-ranging; seeing a family drama from such a filmmaker may bring mixed responses. In the sense, he is making cinema that astonish the audience with his vision and presentation, but would it entertain them?
Movie Review: The Fabelmans
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel LaBelle, Judd Hirsch
Duration: 152 Mins