Onto another of the leftovers from the weekend and I finished watching the new English film The Fabelmans directed by legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg. It was only recently that I did get to know that The Fabelmans was touted as his semi-autobiography, something which had been in his pipeline since 1999. Coming Of Age dramas are always heartfelt, the sort of dramas that will make you nostalgic yet relatable with the events unfolding onscreen. But when it comes to semi-autobiographies of filmmakers, the stakes are even higher for me.
Last year, I had witnessed two incredibly heartfelt slice of life/coming of age dramas of two prolific filmmakers Kenneth Branaugh and Paolo Sorrentino. The two films Belfast and The Hand Of God were beautifully woven dramas that did feel personal at many levels related to some parts of the film where cinema was a life changing catalyst. I did expect a similar sort of trajectory with The Fabelmans, now that I have finished watching The Fabelmans, here are my two cents on the same.
Story & Screenplay
The Fabelmans is a coming of age story of a young boy who aspires to be a filmmaker until his family secrets threatens to destroy everything. The thing that I do usually associate with coming of age dramas is a tingling feeling of warmth. While that is present, the drama here has a dark twist to it that you would usually not associate with dramas of this genre. And thiscis what sets this film apart from the rest, in a good manner. The screenplay standing at 150 minutes may seem daunting but it does pass off like a breeze.
The drama does open with a beautiful little scene where a young protagonist is briefed about cinema by his parents before venturing into his first movie in a theatre. This made me reminisce about my journey featuring a three year old me being told by my grandma to not worry when the lights go off in a theatre and a giant movie screen awaits you. The talks were almost similar that made for a warm little start. Soon, the curiosity of the child kicks in with him wanting to replicate the scene that he witnessed onscreen, in his living room! This constitutes to a bright little start to this wonderful coming of age drama.
The drama is engaging and engrossing yet also breezy. It does give you a glimpse into how low budget films are shot that did act as a nice little learning on my part as well(although it was briefly explained). The interesting bit in the drama is also the character dynamics between various characters. The conflict is always lurking around the corner oblivious to the audience and introduced in a rather unassuming manner. The conflict here is rather dark and disturbing for an impressionable mind that definitely does take a toll of the protagonist.
The events unfolding as a subplot are interesting exploiting into how a change of environment can have an effect on young minds and the effort that does go into settling in a new place. But the element of cinema passing on through the drama almost like an undercurrent, following the protagonist everywhere he goes. This did act like a great metaphor for the love of cinema and filmmaking that the protagonist did have even in his subconscious mind. The vulnerabilities and the psyche of the protagonist are well explored through all the situations which are created around him that does make him question about his future(a state that I am in today although under totally different circumstances). In two separate scenes, both moving in their own manner, the parents lend him good advice to see him back on track. The final act is filled with hope and joy thus summing up a screenplay which is well written and dares to follow a trajectory which may not be in the semantics of films from this genre.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational yet profound and poignant in their own unique ways. The BGM is soulful and melodious with some notes of the piano used in delicately placed sequences. The cinematography and editing are top notch and deserves a part of the accolades. Director Steven Spielberg is a living legend and I have always been a fan of his work. But to witness his most personal film to date was a different experience altogether. It is similar to many yet different in many ways and the manner in which he does create several heartfelt moments, does make for a solid impact!
The performances are incredibly good here. Chloe East as Monica is subtly hilarious in a job well done. Sam Rechner as Logan has his moments to shine. Paul Dano as Burt is earnest and sincere and has a calming presence onscreen, a far cry from his character of The Riddler in The Batman. He is well restrained yet also posseses the traits of every father in pushing his child to study as opposed to taking up films as a profession, terming it as a ‘hobby’. The character traits were relatable in a brilliantky performed role. Michelle Williams as Mitzi is diabolically opposite to her husband Burt. She is expressive, brooding, imaginative and also eccentric at times. It was so easy to go overboard with her character but she is well within her boundary in a job done wonderfully well. But it is Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy who brings out a chain of his insecurities and vulnerabilities with a wide range of emotions. He is outstanding here, always grounded to reality yet possessing that trait of nostalgia through his character.
The Fabelmans is a subtly twisted coming of age drama of a budding filmmaker that makes for a terrific watch. Highly Recommended!