Friday, November 25, 2022

The Fabelmans - 3 Stars - THEATERS - November 23, 2022

Steven Spielberg - certainly the most successful filmmaker of our time - revisits his childhood in a thinly veiled coming of age story.   The Spielberg family becomes The Fabelmans - a frustrated concert artist mother, a brilliant engineer father, an anxious oldest son who becomes a film director, and three daughters.  The family moves from New Jersey to Arizona to California, each move increasingly stressful.  We see young Sammy Fabelman, played by Mateo Zoryan Francis-De-Ford discover movies at a screening of The Greatest Show on Earth.  His mother hands him the family movie camera and sparks fly.  Soon Sammy is filming his Lionel train crashing in a scenario similar to Cecil B. DeMille'.  Joining the Boy Scouts and studying for his photography merit badge, young Sammy directs his fellow scouts in mock war films.  He wraps his sisters in toilet paper for fake zombie movies.  A visit from Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris brings the conflict between art and life into focus and gives us a better take on Sammy's eccentric mother, played by Michelle Williams.  The mother claims the center of the family chaos.  Unhappy and frustrated and a major influence on her budding artist son.  Their relationship turns rocky when he realizes the family friend played by Seth Rogen might be more than that to his mother.  The Fabelmans runs two and a half hours and feels long.  A high school thread with bullying and a girlfriend sometimes falls flat.  A scene of Michelle Williams driving her children toward a tornado pays off in such a typical Spielberg manner that it doesn't feel real.  A personal foul for me comes early in the movie, when the family in 1952 drive to the movies in a 1955 Plymouth - three years before they were made.  That's my own childhood interfering, my 9-year-old love of cars when they were new in the 1950s.  The Fabelmans gave me much to ponder and took me back to my own childhood and chaotic family. The Campbell chaos created a movie loving smarty pants, not a film genius.