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  • Writer's pictureSteve

The Fabelmans (2022)

If Cecil B Demille's Greatest Show on Earth was Spielberg's first experience of cinema, that explains alot. Probably why my eldest son runs a vast, sprawling toy shop, given that his first visit was to watch a certain Pixar tale starring a cowboy and a space ranger.

I'm guessing Spielberg has been watching too much Kenneth Branagh lately and thought 'well if he can do it, then why can't I?'

And fair play to him, as he's got form as we know, for making some of the best movies ever committed to film. Up until recently, he probably didn't imagine his own life was all that photogenic or entertaining, but this biopic in all but name goes to show that even the likes of Spielberg can be surprised by what cinemagoers are happy, nay delighted, to sit through.

Naysayers, few though they may be, may cry Jewish privilege, the right connections and a Steinway in the living room, and they may well have a point, should it matter a jot, which thankfully it does not. There is something to be said for a decent and honest upbringing where any degree of affluence and influence enables what otherwise may have become a talented void, where greatness was possible. It still requires talent, monied or otherwise. As we have all seen all too often, money alone does not make a good film, but shoestring budgets often create pearls. It is the maker, not the bank, that produces the wonder, after all.

At two and half hours, I may initially have seen this as something of a drag, but after seeing Avatar: The Way of Water earlier in the day, this effort by comparison, seems quite conservative and manageable. It isn't 'the best film of the year', no matter how much the trailer gushes at you, but rather a poignant coming-of-age tale with a love letter to his mother thrown in for good measure. The performances are all excellent, even Seth Rogen comes across as accomplished under Spielberg's gaze, but Michelle Williams is where the dollar value and award hype lies, who is clearly standout as Sammy's Mother.

I was curious as to why he didn't just come out with it and call the characters who they really are. I mused that maybe it was personal enough as it was without the rubber stamp, like the man holding the fly swatter in a room filled with as yet fairly affable bumble bees, readying himself for the sting of criticism which could then only be personal.

It's good, don't get me wrong, highly immersive and engaging throughout. The exposition feels a little laboured at times and it dwells too long and too often in places. This is Spielberg remember, he can do what the fuck he likes and has no reason to explain himself. My reaction is just as personal as his story, if only he'd put his name on it.


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