Friday, April 19, 2024

Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” Takes Toronto by Storm, Rapturous Audience Response for 1st Ever Festival Entry


I’m nervous to say a film got a long standing ovation or is headed to the Oscars after so much bloviating has gone on the last two weeks.

But Steven Spielberg for the first time ever brought a film to a festival and knocked everyone out.
“The Fabelmans” played in Toronto tonight to a rapturous audience. The film not only got a long standing ovation but actor Judd Hirsch actually got huge applause during the screening when his character appeared in a sustained cameo.

“The Fabelmans” is Spielberg’s most personal work ever but he assured the sold out audience at Princess of Wales theater that he’s not retiring. He just felt it was time to address some autobiographical facts because of the pandemic. He wanted to talk about his parents, each of whom died in the last few years at very old ages.

The movie covers the director’s childhood in the late 50s and early 60s up through the time he goes to college in 1964. Tony Kushner has — no surprise — written a wonderful, richly realized screenplay that will reap its own awards later this year. But it wouldnt work so well without this tremendous cast. Michelle Williams is the mother, Paul Dano is the father, Seth Rogen is the couple’s best friend, and there’s terrific work from Jeannie Berlin and Robin Bartlett. Newcomer Gabrielle LaBelle plays Sammy Fabelman, the stand in for young Steven.

There’s also a surprise appearance by David Lynch as director John Ford.

I was lucky enough to have lunch with Spielberg’s mother maybe a decade ago at kosher restaurant in Los Angeles. She was 95 years young and a spitfire. Spielberg’s choice of Michelle Williams to play her is brilliant. This may be Williams’s best work and that’s saying something after movies like “My Week with Marilyn” and “Blue Valentine.” Spielberg said during the Q&A that after seeing “Blue Valentine” he’d asked to meet Williams and kept her in mind for a future role. Thank goodness he did.

What a joy “The Fabelmans” is. Audiences are going to love it. This is a really beautifully constructed family saga with lots of humor and pathos. It’s the kind of movie we go see in theaters to have the communal feeling of the shared human experience.

Mazel tov!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News