What a Fabel, man. (CREDIT: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment)

Starring: Gabriel LaBelle, Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Jeannie Berlin, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, Keeley Karsten, Sophia Kopera, Robin Bartlett

Director: Steven Spielberg

Running Time: 151 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Cheeky Moments and a Few Bursts of Anger

Release Date: November 11, 2022 (Limited)/November 23, 2022 (Expands Nationwide)

What’s It About?: He’s been making some of the iconic movies in cinematic history for more than 50 years, and now he’s finally welcoming us into his personal life. I’m talking about Steven Spielberg, of course. Or actually I’m talking about Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), his fictionalized avatar in The Fabelmans.

Now, when I said a few sentences ago that Spielberg was “finally” letting us in, I was kind of joking, since certain aspects of his biography have been public knowledge for quite a while: the childhood in New Jersey and Arizona, the amateur moviemaking, his mother leaving his father for his father’s best friend, his dad making significant contributions to the history of computing. In fact, his background has already informed much of his filmography. So for plenty of cineastes, The Fabelmans is hardly necessary. But just because something isn’t surprising doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching, and there’s plenty to enjoy in Spielberg’s excavation of his own memories.

What Made an Impression?: You know, when I start reading a book, I often like to skip ahead to the last sentence to give myself a little preview of my future. So with that in mind, I’ll mention that The Fabelmans ends with a delightful bang in the form of Sammy’s encounter with a certain real-life legendary director, as played by another legendary director. I won’t say who they are, but I will say: you guys are gonna love it.

Anyway, what else should I spotlight that happens in the 2-plus hours leading up to that meeting? How about the fact that everyone in the cast is so fully committed? That’s certainly to be expected, considering their resumes and the level of professionalism around them. But seriously, everyone is such a character. Each member of the Fabelman family is bound to leave an indelible imprint on your heart. As Sammy’s mom and dads Mitzi and Burt, Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are exactly the sort of (usually, but not always) supportive mid-century suburban parents you’d hope they would be. And as the oldest of Sammy’s younger sisters Reggie, Julia Butters is wonderfully unrecognizable to those who know her from American Housewife and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… Even Uncle Boris is unforgettable despite only showing up for a few days to sit shiva. That’s what happens when you give a small but crucial part to Judd Hirsch, I suppose.

And there are plenty of other people to meet outside the family as well! Seth Rogen is the most avuncular he’s ever been as Burt’s coworker/best friend Bennie. And Sammy’s quite the friend-maker himself. He needs to round out the casts for all the ambitious home movies he’s making, after all. Then when he makes his way to high school, he can’t help but encounter bullies, and girls who help clean him up after he runs afoul of those bullies. On that note, one of the best scenes is a conversation that he has with his soon-to-be-girlfriend and another girl who’s just learned (from Sammy) that her boyfriend’s been cheating on her. You know how teenagers are! Similarly, you probably also know how Steven Spielberg is, and it’s lovely to see that play out in Fabelman Form.

The Fabelmans is Recommended If You Like: E.T., Just about any American movie or TV show set in the 1950s or early 60s, and probably Cinema Paradiso (which I haven’t seen in its entirety, but based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like a good comp)

Grade: 4 out of 5 Cameras