dmartsfilm’s review published on Letterboxd:
Family and art will tear you in two and Sammy will have to decide for himself what in his life is truly worth pursuing. Sammy’s father discourages him from making movies and he obeys. An ordinary life is not in the books for Sammy, no matter how hard the discouraging adults in his life try to blow out the flame. Steven Spielberg opens up his past and becomes vulnerable to his audience for the first time. This film is his first instance of laying it all out there. He dives head first into themes that he’s been playing around in his movies with for years. The Fabelmans takes everything that makes Spielberg the filmmaker and person he is and wraps it neatly together in a motion picture. He directs the film with a delicate touch and the movie is such a nice balance of story and heart.
The two actors who get to play Sammy couldn’t have been cast any better. Seth Rogen is really good in his role that basically tears the family apart along with Sammy’s mother played by Michelle Williams. She goes a little too hard for the Oscar at times, but it’s a fully committed performance of a big personality. Tony Kushner wrote the amazingly detailed screenplay with Steven himself and they have such a great working relationship. Spielberg lets the film fight the battle of family vs. art and see who will come out on top on the other side. The passion and fire inside for art will tear Sammy to pieces and it will probably separate himself from his family even more. There’s nothing left to do at the end of the day but to forget all of your families troubles and go do something for yourself. Pursue that dream until it dies or you achieve it and Spielberg (and Sammy) were put on this Earth to make motion pictures.
Spielberg’s loose vignette style narrative never lost my interest and it encapsulates a coming of age story as well as anyone has done. My actual favorite part of the movie is the last scene when Sammy gets to meet his hero: John Ford. The legend David Lynch gets to don the eye patch and cigar to play the other legend that was Ford. It’s a perfect casting choice and the scene made me all giddy inside. Ford will grumpily give Sammy some advice and then kick his ass out of his office. With one final wink at the audience, Spielberg jerks the camera up while Sammy is walking through the soundstage lot to make a nod to Ford’s advice he gave. The horizon should be at the top or bottom Ford tells him and this final little correction of the horizon in the camera on Sammy is a smile coming from Spielberg that he got to tell his story, make his art, and have an audience willing to participate. Art and family will tear you in two, but if you outlast the battle there’s no telling what you can accomplish.