The Fabelmans (2022)
Several of our RCC volunteers first saw The Fabelmans at Hailsham Pavilion Cinema, on a freezing cold February night. However, Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical film warmed our heart then and did so this time too.
After a brief sugar high from shared Quality Street chocolates, we were rather quiet in the discussion. There was little to criticise. The Fabelmans gave us a real insight into Spielberg’s life and the key moments that set his remarkable directorial skills into motion. “I didn’t want it to end,” said one of our participants, which is a major compliment for a 150-minute-long movie.
It was a beautifully made film, full of memories and insights, which told a “messy, complex and authentic” story. It did not shy away from themes of bullying, anxiety, loss and infidelity and gave us a glimpse of a Jewish family in the 1960s, still very close to the experience of being immigrants from Russia.
The theme of how film can be used to explore the truth and how it can change perceptions was also at its centre. Sam, the Spielberg character, discovers the devastating truth about his mother’s relationship with a family friend through his filmmaking. The Fabelmans made us reflect on talent, how it can be nurtured and how, as in Sam’s mother’s case, it can be stifled.
There were also some great humorous moments, particularly when Sam starts a relationship with an over-enthusiastic Christian girl. We loved Judd Hirsch’s portrayal of Uncle Boris, a circus performer and storyteller with a message to share about the painful role of an artist. Of course, David Lynch’s portrayal of John Ford at the end of the film was worth the wait.
John Williams’ score was much appreciated. It was “delicate and subtle”, with Beethoven and Bach an additional treat. We loved the cast, especially Paul Dano’s very expressive and heartbroken eyes. Gabriel LaBelle and Michelle Williams impressed.
As well as sharing some of our own immigrant family histories, we somehow got round to talking about Crystal the monkey, perhaps the only monkey to have her own Wikipedia entry.
We all agreed. It was wonderful to know Spielberg’s back story and we appreciated his reputation as a genuinely nice guy. This was an effortless piece of filmmaking, “a smorgasbord of deliciousness” as one of our participants said.