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One has to wonder what this odd hybrid between the crowd-pleasing and the earnest Steven Spielberg has to offer for the average moviegoer.

The trauma of divorce, antisemitism, childhood wonder: these are all themes that Steven Spielberg has studiously incorporated in his vast oeuvre. In The Fabelmans, a fictionalised autobiography of his own youth, the director gives some clues as to why these themes resonate so poignantly in his life.

Spielberg himself has stated he simply had to record those memories on film, as some sort of personal therapy now he’s entering his twilight years. Whether the general movie audience needs The Fabelmans is up for debate however.

The overlong film is frustratingly episodic and forms an odd hybrid between the crowd-pleasing urges of Spielberg and his later-years earnestness. That schism also impacts the perceived authenticity. Unlike the director’s best works the film never draws you into a fully-formed world, partly because the lead character is bland and Michelle Williams’ performance is all over the place.

Still, even in a mediocre Spielberg, wonderful highlights exist, none more than the final scene. That one scene alone reveals more about the director’s giddy cinematic joys than the whole film combined.

release: 2022

director: Steven Spielberg

starring: Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Judd Hirsch


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