In my lifetime, when a Steven Spielberg movie comes out, it is without question an event. The reason for such an event is that the film experiences he has shared with the world are experiences that provide real estate in your mind forever. In his latest film, The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical tale on how he became the filmmaker he is today, it may again be the real estate you want to keep with you forever…or something you might want to sell immediately. Find out my thoughts with a non-spoiler review ahead.

The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg’s coming-of-age drama

(from left) Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), Younger Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord) and Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams) in The Fabelmans, co-written, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.

The Fabelmans is Steven Spielberg’s coming-of-age drama that takes an intimate look at his own upbringing. As well as what led to his start into becoming one of the best filmmakers of all time. The film follows the fictional Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker played incredibly by Gabriel LaBelle as he navigates his life through making movies to deal with life’s struggles. These struggles include but aren’t limited to a series of serious family issues. Not to mention, moments with school bullies while in high school where he is attacked for his religion, both verbally and physically. Many fists and vicious verbal and radical thoughts fly on many occasions toward Sammy Fabelman.

(from left) Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams), Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), Natalie Fabelman (Keeley Karsten), Reggie Fabelman (Julia Butters) and Lisa Fabelman (Sophia Kopera) in The Fabelmans, co-written, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg.

Incredible Cast, but an incomplete story loses the journey

The cast is fleshed out with tremendous performances from Michelle Williams (The Greatest Showman), Paul Dano (The Batman), Seth Rogen (Neighbors), and Judd Hirsch (Taxi) among many others. However, those performances are pitted with a story that feels incomplete. The story feels like it’s told in pieces rather than a film we can take a full journey with. A common theme in the film is that everything happens for a reason. But everything in this film is more of a grab-bag of moments. It often seems stuff is just happening out of nowhere. Sadly The Fabelmans is not as exciting as you would want it to be. It’s also not how it should be or you’d expect it to be with it being a Steven Spielberg film. 

Missing That Spielberg Magic

Unfortunately, this is a bit of a misstep in my eyes as the beloved director offers amazing moments. Not to mention, the performances provided are very inspiring and at times spectacular. But a Steven Spielberg film that is somewhat based on Steven Spielberg, co-written/directed by Spielberg should be the best Spielberg thing ever. This film should be iconic and an instant classic. Because let’s face it, he has done it time and time again.

But for this forever fan, I have to say this tale is not his best outing. Am I glad I watched it, absolutely! Are there moments where he shows his filmmaking style as a kid that bring me back to my childhood dreams of being a director myself? Without hesitation that fun is there. It is in those moments that I know I am witnessing Spielberg’s magic. But that magic doesn’t go through the whole film. The fact that I never have to see this film again pains me. 

(from left) Gabriel LaBelle and co-writer/producer/director Steven Spielberg on the set of The Fabelmans.

Having said all this, it isn’t a terrible movie, it just isn’t really good. It is forgettable. Everyone that has followed Spielberg’s career has a version of who the man is in their eyes. He incorporates his life in everything he has done on film with many triumphs along the way. I feel you get into his essence, as well as the man and filmmaker he is through his other projects, rather than The Fabelmans. Which is odd because it is trying to answer those questions we already have answers for.

Still give it a watch.

The film doesn’t pain me as much as, say, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A film that I have wiped clean from my brain since the day I saw it. The Fabelmans was supposed to be different. It should be the centerpiece of all of Spielberg’s films because it is so personal to him. I was hoping it would be personal to myself and all that will watch it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hit the touchstones his other work has done. However, this only proves that Spielberg may be mortal. I am sure he will make me eat those words on whatever his next project will be as he clearly still has the magic when things work.

The Fabelmans will have a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 11, 2022, before expanding wide on November 23, 2022.