Throughout his career, iconic director Steven Spielberg has always been known to play towards the warmth and emotion of the human experience. Balancing big blockbusters like JURASSIC PARK and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL alongside historical dramas such as SCHINDLER’S LIST and THE POST, his talented hand has woven movie magic over his decades-spanning body of work. With THE FABELMANS, Spielberg is about to take on the most daunting subject of his career: himself.
Using the skills he’s accrued over his career, Steven Spielberg has pulled together a cast that’s up to the task of telling THE FABELMANS’ semi-autobiographical story. With the germ of this idea being nurtured for some time now, the end result has been a long time coming. Thanks to the film’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, movie fans have gotten their first taste of the latest Spielberg film.
For someone who’s known for bringing smiles and tears to the faces of audiences with his past work, THE FABELMANS has to be Steven Spielberg’s warmest, most heartfelt film ever. The work and care that all who were involved with this project have put into the end result is an experience that celebrates the magic of movies, through the eyes of someone who eventually became one of its best practitioners.
Steven Spielberg Adapts His Life For The Big Screen
While THE FABELMANS is clearly telling the story of Steven Spielberg’s life from childhood to his younger adult years, it’s not a straightforward biopic. Rather, Spielberg tells the story of his life through the surrogate character of Sam Fabelman (Mateo Zoryna Francis-Deford/Gabriel LaBelle). Through Sam, we see fictionalized versions of Steven Spielberg’s memories come to life, in great personal detail.
With his first screenwriting credit since 2001’s A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, Steven Spielberg co-wrote THE FABELMANS with acclaimed screenwriter/playwright Tony Kushner. The pair last worked together on the modern remake of WEST SIDE STORY, and their re-teaming couldn’t have been better.
In an era where writer/directors have been writing love letters to cinema, as well as stories of their childhood experiences, THE FABELMANS almost feels like it’s part of that trend. However, Steven Spielberg’s spin on the formula doesn’t turn those memories into ideal happenings. The story calls for the utmost care in its performances, which makes the people chosen to play the titular family and their loved ones an even more amazing fit.
An All Star Cast At The Top Of Their Game
Pulling together a cast for the ages, THE FABELMANS boasts a lineup that’s as amazing as it is effective. Three of the most important figures in the story of Sam Fabelman’s life are played by a trio of amazing acting talents. The roles of Sam’s parents, Burt and Mitzi, are inhabited by Golden Globe® nominee Paul Dano and Academy Award® nominee Michelle Williams.
Playing the characters based on Steven Spielberg’s parents Arnold and Leah, Dano and Williams anchor the ensemble cast throughout the entire story; with some assistance from Seth Rogen, playing the role of Bennie Loewy, a family friend crucial to THE FABELMANS’ story. Also included is legendary actor Judd Hirsch, whose supporting role of Uncle Boris provides one of the most pivotal moments that sells the overall message of Spielberg’s pseudo-biopic.
Perhaps the greatest standout in THE FABELMANS’ cast is Gabriel LaBelle, the actor who plays Sam in his adolescent and young adult years. It’s that time period that shapes Sam Fabelman’s life in the most important fashion, leaving LaBelle’s incarnation to navigate some of his greatest life challenges. LaBelle is more than up to the task, acting as the heart and soul of the picture, as we watch Sam go through the various highs and lows of his moviemaking journey.
The Magic Of The Movies Is At Its Most Personal
THE FABELMANS uses its protagonist’s relationship with the movies to showcase a variety of emotional beats. Sam Fabelman’s obsession with the movies spurs him to do great things, while also taking some surprising turns throughout that journey. In telling his own life story through that very medium, Steven Spielberg crafts an emotional story that celebrates cinema by explaining how he fell under its spell in the first place.
Re-enactments of Spielberg’s own childhood movies are peppered throughout THE FABELMANS, as well as some modified versions of encounters he’s had throughout his early years. While the events depicted are based in reality, the power of fiction shapes them into a more cinematic experience. In making such a personal film, Steven Spielberg has delivered one of his most effective moviegoing experiences.
It’s taken a long time for THE FABELMANS to finally come to fruition, and the wait has been worth it! Early festival reactions, and even the internet reaction to the film’s first trailer, have indicated that the film is already tipped as a hot awards contender. More importantly, people are already preparing themselves to laugh, cry, and celebrate Steven Spielberg’s life story through the power of the very art he fell in love with so early on.
THE FABELMANS opens in select theaters on November 11th, with its wide release set for Thanksgiving. So make sure to keep an eye out for when you can purchase tickets at an AMC Theatres location near you. You’re not going to want to miss this deeply personal, and truly cinematic spectacle.