Published on December 18th, 2022 | by Craig Silliphant


The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner bring Spielberg’s origins to life in this semi-autobiographical look at the filmmaker’s early years when he learned to make movies.

While his sensibilities may be too mainstream Hollywood for some film nerds to worship, I submit that Steven Spielberg is one of film history’s greatest treasures. Perhaps I was imprinted from a young age with movies like Jaws, ET, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Or maybe it’s simply because you can feel it emanating from every frame he puts on the screen — he loves movies. He knows how to see a film the way an audience will see it. He’s been a revered cinematic guide for so many years — we trust him to hold our hands through the dark.

The Fabelmans is billed as a semi-autobiographical but quite a lot of it is culled from Spielberg’s real life. That said, it’s smart that it was done this way, lest it come off as super narcissistic. In the film, the Spielberg avatar, Sam Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) lives with his workaholic father (Paul Dano), his quirky and depressive mother (Michelle Williams), and his sisters. Throughout his life, he finds a passion for filmmaking while dealing with his messy family life, rampant anti-semitism, and other obstacles.

I’m a sucker for movies about making movies and this one does an excellent job of portraying what a creative gets out of being creative. It can be an obsession, sure, but it can also be something to emotionally lean on in times of trouble. Conversely, as in the case with his mother, the film explores what happens when artists are cut off from their outlets.

The cast is great, especially Dano and Williams, playing characters that do genuinely love each other but can’t fight the pull of what life can sometimes do to people. And a quick shout out to an amazing David Lynch cameo. It’s quick, but he’s hilarious.

The Fabelmans might feel like it gets off to a slow start, but it takes its time putting the pieces into place and then moving them around the board in satisfying ways. It rarely feels cheesy or on-the-nose, which is another talent that Spielberg has. Not too many mainstream filmmakers pull off mass appeal storytelling with the level of subtlety that he does. The Fabelmans is an easy watch, but it still has a number of emotional moments that pack a punch.

While he may have avoided charges of narcissism through his approach, one could still ask, is this overly self-indulgent? Well, sure, maybe. But he hasn’t wasted our time — he and scribe Tony Kushner have presented a story that goes beyond the experiences of one man into exploring themes that are more universal. It’s not just a love letter to cinema and creation but also about the meaning of love and family.

Which ultimately, is what Spielberg does so well — and why we love his movies. I don’t care if it’s not ‘cool’ to worship what he does. Though he’s 76 this year, I hope he’s around to tell us stories for a long time.

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About the Author

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is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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