The Fabelmans: One of the Best of 2022
2022 was a year overbrimming with films for everyone. The staying power of Tom Cruise's iconic 1986 megahit, Top Gun, was reimagined with the overwhelming box office success of Top Gun: Maverick. Death on the Nile with the infallible Gal Gadot and Kenneth Branagh's pitch-perfect performance as the eccentric, often irritable Poirot finally made it to the silver screen mesmerizing audiences with its star power and faithful yet clever rendering of Christie's beloved murder mystery classic. December 2022 climaxed in the unparalleled success of James Cameron's billion-dollar sequel to the Avatar series, Avatar: The Way of Water breaking ticket sales records across the world, including the home of Bollywood. As this article is being published, Cameron's Avatar 2 is racing towards being the 7th highest-grossing film of all time with more than a 1.5 Billion revenue.
Yet...a film that truly captures brilliant storytelling, seamless cinematography, and an unequivocal emotional investment in its characters is Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans. Featured in many top ten lists of movies of 2022, the film represents a quintessential coming-of-age story and a beautifully crafted semi-autobiography of Spielberg shown through the life of Sammie Fabelman. The movie hits it out of the park in casting with Michelle Williams taking one of her best career roles since, My Week With Marilyn, as Mitzi. Her ability to channel the spontaneity, fragility, and joy mixed with sadness in her role as Sammie's mother is a testament to Spielberg's genius in drawing out one of William's best performances. Paul Dano takes on an equally complex role as Sammie's gentle, more traditional father whose devotion to his wife Mitzi is touching yet heartbreaking. Seth Rogen as the family friend, Bennie, also delivers a natural yet nuanced performance in his role as a trusted family friend who challenges the fabric and stability of the Fabelman family.
The highlight of The Fabelmans is the refreshing breakout performance delivered by actor Gabriel Labelle who has the daunting task of portraying a young Spielberg and delights the audience with every second on screen. His vulnerable yet touching performance compels the viewer to travel Sammie's uneven journey of finding himself as a filmmaker in spite of being the artistic son of an engineer who sees films just as a hobby that will pass. His close relationship with his vibrant mother who leans on him for emotional support as well as his strained relations with the family friend, Bennie, are true Hollywood moments where the masterful script of Tony Kushner and Spielberg comes through. Sammie's struggles compound after moving to California where his slight build and Jewish background create friction and violence with his antisemitic classmates in a northern California high school.
The warm yet often dysfunctional moments with his Jewish family in the mid-50s and 60s throughout the film are endearing and humorous, including the pivotal scene of Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris and his eccentric interaction with Sammie coaching him on the dangers and allure of being an artist. Sammie's story and destiny to become one of Hollywood's most recognized directors is forecast in a lovely moment towards the end of the film when he gets to meet his hero, the legendary John Ford. The Fabelmans is by far one of Spielberg's greatest films as it charms audiences with its simplicity, honesty, and classic Hollywood unraveling of a good yarn. As poignantly reviewed by Matt Seitz of RogerEbert.com: "Spielberg's film...centers on the conflict between artistic drive and personal responsibility, as well as the mysteries of talent and happiness".