Life begins with a movie: Steven Spielberg’s autobiography takes as its starting point a snowy January 1952 and a session of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show in the World. Movies always start with a train – if you don’t believe me, ask the Lumière brothers or Edwin S. Porter. Is one possible without the other? That evening, for little Sammy-Steven (Matheo Zorion Francis-DeFord), it was forever clear that he was not. I want to take the magic of cinema home in my pocket, keep the projection on my palm, show my mother again and again and not let my waking dream evaporate after waking up. But magic is not born on its own: Hanukkah is coming soon, which means that you can ask for a railway as a gift and try to repeat the irreversible collision seen in the cinema.

Michelle Williams as Mitzi in Fabelmans
Michelle Williams as Mitzi in Fabelmans

Spielberg has been making films about himself and his family for half a century now: parental divorce and departing fathers in ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jewish identity and the sense of an outsider in West Side Story, the burden of an outsider driven by bullies in Duel. For years, the director has left the touches of a self-portrait on the scale of universal upheavals, where behind big aliens, dinosaurs, treasure hunters and endless adventures, a small “me” was hiding. Today, Spielberg is extremely frank: “The Fabelmans” is a gentle, romanticized, but shamelessly sincere biography of the author’s childhood and youth. Everything that may seem fiction is the truth multiplied by two: the monkey in the living room, and shooting horror films with the sisters in the closet, and the painful separation of Mr. and Mrs. Spielberg dedicated West Side Story to his father, Fabelmans is an ode to his mother. Both are no longer alive, both wanted Spielberg to make a movie about the Spielbergs one day.

Gabrielle LaBelle as Sam in a still from the film Fabelmans
Gabrielle LaBelle as Sam in a still from the Fabelmans

Fable and fiction are the road to recognition, but, more importantly, to acceptance: Stephen is the son of his parents, the offspring of the family, the successor of traditions. From dad and mom in it exactly half: the technical mindset and mechanical sequence of Arnold-Burt (expressive Paul Dano) and the infantilism and optimism of Leah Mitzi (extraordinary level of skill Michelle Williams). “The Fabelmans” is a psychotherapy session that lasts almost three hours and costs about $40 million. A frank conversation, confession, gratitude and the discovery of a secret that has never been a secret.

Paul Dano as Bert in a still from the movie Fabelmans
Paul Dano as Bert in a still from the movie Fabelmans

Spielberg and his longtime collaborator, screenwriter Tony Kushner, have created a coming-of-age story based on real events in quarantine: Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle took over) grows up, falls in love, quarrels with his mother in the kitchen and giggles with his sisters at the dinner table. Spielberg, the director, found the strength to take a few steps back, distance himself and see people in relatives. Close, understandable, imperfect, and therefore alive – now forever alive on film. You want to get to know the Fabelmans and play bridge in the backyard on weekends: you can’t help but feel respect for the gloomy engineer Bert and it’s impossible not to fall in love with “Peter Penk” Mitzi. And it was impossible for the mercurial lady not to fall in love with husband Benny’s (Set Rogan) best friend. Spielberg saves mom from the intonation of condemnation, once again turning the soul of a humanist outward. Hearts boomerang will return the sympathy of the audience.

Among the many reminiscence pictures that now and then break out in the filmographies of great authors (from Almodovar to Inarritu, from Gerwig to Gray), Fabelmans do not sin either with narcissism or with excessive sympathy for the director’s alter ego. The gentle irony and upbringing of the dreamer makes Spielberg’s confession related to Richard Linklater’s space tale Apollo 10 1/2, which came out a few months earlier. Like a gentle paternal pat on the shoulder and a frame-per-second “thank you.” Thank you for continuing to dream and not giving up.

Michelle Williams as Mitzi in Fabelmans
Michelle Williams as Mitzi in The Fabelmans

Spielberg chuckles and admits that Gabriel LaBelle is much prettier than he once was, a flirtatiousness the director can afford. About the metamorphoses of the world in the optics of the camera “Fabelmany” they talk a lot, and willingly, and contagiously. The charlatan magic of the movie camera contains the algorithm of eternal love. The simplest little things in the frame turn into revelations, and a toy train in the basement can refract the light into a great catastrophe. In addition, you can compose a meeting with John Ford and ask David Lynch to play a great director. If you’re Steven Spielberg, you won’t be denied.

In the mirror of film, the 75-year-old Spielberg sees a sometimes capricious, sometimes selfish, but purposeful and sensitive boy who fills bumps and collects heart scratches. But Sammy is happy because he always knew what he wanted. And Steven is happy because he knows that he got what he wanted and even more. The Fabelmans were not awarded a happy ending: Mitzi and Bert parted, and Lea and Arnold will get back together 15 years after the breakup and live together until old age. Stephen ended up at the studio after a dozen school films – and this is not the end, this is just a happy beginning.

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  1. As a very young boy, Sammy, fascinated by The Last Show on Earth, begins to dream of filming in big cinema. Closer to twenty years, he realizes that this is not a hobby, but a real job. And art requires sacrifice. But who, if not loved ones, can understand what losses or lost dreams are. Members of the Jewish family understand that their son has a great talent that will make him a man in the future.

     Actors: Among the stunning stars of Hollywood, Gabriel LaBelle stands out, whose image of growing up Sammy attracts attention from the first minutes of the film. The way he feels the frame, edits the film and tries to portray the shooting with the usual editing tricks, is simply magic. It cannot be said that the screen boy grew up, but did not grow up. At least in the first half of the tape. He slowly comes to the realization that love (especially in his family) is not eternal, but that love of mother and son will last for a long time. The slower, the more he understands that the motive to keep strong nerves, and family ties, is also hard work. He will have to make a choice based on the instructions of Uncle Boris’s mother, his mother (played by Jud Hersh), whose appearance on the threshold of the Fabelman house (judging from the prophetic dream does not bode well). The hero Jada understood something in dreams and hobbies, so he set the boy on the path of true meaning. He will become the voice of conscience for the boy, and Sammy will have to make a choice between art or loyalty to the family.

     Paul Dano plays the head of an old school family with outdated family traditions. The closer his hero suffers, not expressing it in emotions, keeping everything in himself and getting a little closer to the truth, the more terrible his invisible observation of his wife becomes. He tries to be a role model for his children, raised them with his wife. But no one told him that there is another life. A fairy tale doesn’t always have to have a “happily ever after”. Therefore, from a break in relations, he would simply disappear. Just like his dreams – sharing with someone he trusted – did not want to lose.

     The brilliant star shining under the arches of car headlights was performed by Michelle Williams, who proved that she is also a woman who demands her happiness with her boundless soul.

     The father of the Fabelman family, realizing that he will not become a role model or teach his wife to please his wife with simple trifles in a quiet family circle, becomes an invisible participant in the novel, hanging over his beloved. Who, if not Benny, embodies the stumbling block in front of the hero Dano, although without much difficulty, he pleasantly fits into the camp of the family. The comedic image of Rogen (finally used in a dramatic film, and not in a comedy) can give the joy of life to a dear person, and plunge another into depression. Despite the fact that the family is religious, the hero of Set forgets an important commandment (I am sure that the Jews have a similar commandment): “Do not covet your neighbor’s wife.” The hero just reminds that there is no perfect marriage, and love, like happiness, can appear out of nowhere.

     Everything else: of course, the maestro talks with Tony Kushner about what happened in his childhood when he lived in Arizona. The plot will not do without moving, which will mark the boy’s future career associated with cinema. From here, Fabelmans became a personal project for the director, and Stephen built the plot for many years. It is quite that in the script he prescribed the characters of his mother, his beloved uncle (performed by Rogen), but do not forget about the sincerity of the picture. With what tenderness and love the scriptwriter and director about his best years, when he took a portable camera and filmed everything that helped him, as well as the main character. Yes, he is the main character of the whole story. Partly. Only while watching, you do not pay much attention to the similarity between Spielberg and his screen protégé. You pay more attention to the brilliant work of the close-up and the rest of the situation around the characters: from her spontaneous trip to the tornado to the large cinema hall, in which many people gathered to see masterfully glued author’s works of the young talent. The tape shows how each of us dreams of what. Someone achieves this, but someone does not receive it, although he tries a lot for the good of the family. Still, without the support of relatives, too, can not do. Son – goes from the operator to the editor and gradually approaching the cherished production; mother – a unique queen of the stage who has not lost her musical fuse (largely thanks to true love), but she had to give up her dream; father – follows his outdated principles and does not stop working. The hero does everything to ennoble and strengthen the family nest (in the depths of his soul knowing that it is useless) Everyone pursues his own goal. The bridge of family values ​​that GG has been building around itself for so long and stubbornly can be shaken only because everyone is dreaming about their own. At the same time, no one thinks what they will sacrifice in order to remain themselves and truly be a happy person.

     This is the second work of Spielberg, created by himself (albeit in co-authorship) after 21 years ago while working on “Artificial Intelligence”.

     My bow to Janusz Kaminsky, who showed all the most memorable moments (however, the scene where Michelle Williams dances through the headlights is more memorable).

     Captivating and beckoning (even in disturbing moments during Sammy’s film development) every melody played on the piano by the heroine Williams. I would like to believe that despite the well-deserved departure of John Williams (perhaps this tape and the fifth film about Indiana Jones will be the last in his career), who worked with Spielberg 29 times will turn out to be worthy.

     The producer of the project along with Tony Kushner and Spielberg was Christy Makosko.

     Impressions: Stephen’s drama, which premiered in Toronto, is worth a look if you’re interested in seeing what the director’s aspirations were based on, backed up by Kushner’s screenplay fiction. Sincere, interesting and relaxed atmosphere reigns in the film. And the music of Williams tries to captivate you with it and imperceptibly inciting you to watch the picture to the end.

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