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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs at 7:20 a.m., during the Noon News and in The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review | "The Fabelmans"

The Fabelmans
Universal Pictures
The Fabelmans

“The Fabelmans” is a coming-of-age story of young Sammy Fabelman. The story was directed and co-written by Steven Spielberg and based loosely on his own life.

Co-writer Tony Kushner, famous for numerous accomplishments, including a Pulitzer Prize for his play “Angels in America,” has worked with Spielberg on various projects through the years. He often remarked that elements of Spielberg’s life "should be a movie." Now, they are.

By the time the pandemic hit, Spielberg’s father had passed away at age 103, perhaps allowing him to make the difficult personal decision to finally tell his story. The pandemic downtime provided a window for Spielberg and Kushner to collaborate via Zoom.

Spielberg said the process was “Kafka-esque.” Through existing photographs and 8mm video, much of it shot by himself as a kid, the re-creation of his home environment was eerily authentic.

The film shows us how young Sammy becomes enamored with filmmaking. However, the more powerful message is how he learns that film has the power to impact others and reveal dysfunction in life around him, in his social circle, and within his own family.

The ensemble cast is impressive. Sammy is played by Canadian/American actor Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams as his mother, Paul Dano as his father, Seth Rogen as family friend and Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris. LaBelle beautifully interprets the obstacles and life challenges experienced by young Sammy.

Paul Dano, now age 38, has appeared numerous times in indie films at Sundance since he was a lanky 16-year-old. He made his directing debut here in Park City with “Wildlife” at the 2018 festival. It’s fascinating to see him mature into this multi-layered father role.

Michelle Williams, also no stranger to Sundance premieres, never disappoints in her ability to transform into incredibly powerful and complex characters. Her “Peter Pan” outward appearance masks a talented, loving, but deeply troubled mother.

Viewers will ask how much of this is true. Apparently, the answer is most of it. In fact, the film is dedicated to Arnold Spielberg and Leah Spielberg Adler who died in 2020 and 2017 respectively.

“The Fabelmans” is rated PG-13 and runs 2 hours and 31 illuminating minutes.

Friday Film Reviewer & Monthly Book Reviewer