Today, Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” an autobiographical film from him written with Tony Kushner, is released in limited run. In two weeks it will go wide. It could not be more pertinent or important right now.
With all the talk on antisemitism sweeping the country– something we didn’t think we’d ever in a modern world– “The Fabelmans” hits home. It’s at once a ‘fable’ about Spielberg becoming a movie maker, and also the story of a family divided even in love. And they are a Jewish family, depicted on screen rarely. Here it’s so pressing that The Fabelmans light Chanukah candles and talk about their religion. For Jewish audiences who have watched countless Christmas films, seeing “The Fabelmans” is like taking a warm bath.
Of course, the movie is more than just that. Spielberg and Kushner have made one of those rare films that is an instant classic, a “real” movie, the only one I’ve seen this year. “The Fabelmans” hearkens back to classic films like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Best Years of Our Lives,” peeling back the stories of members of this family at its own pace, then drawing them all together.
Michelle Williams leads the cast as Mrs. Fabelman, a stand in for Spielberg’s late real life mother. I was lucky enough to know Mrs. Spielberg just slightly because of her L.A. kosher restaurant. It’s remarkable how Williams has transformed herself into this small but vibrant person. Williams is absolutely the lead actress of the year, making her Mitzi vulnerable, smart, and no one’s victim. She’s ahead of her time.
All the other actors in this movie deserve call outs including Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Jeannie Berlin, Robin Bartlett, and most especially Gabriel LaBelle, 19, who will win all the awards this season for younger actor. He’s remarkable. And then there’s Judd Hirsch, who is now somehow 87, and beloved for decades. His one short turn as Mitzi’s uncle — explaining what an artist is to young Sammy — is stunning. Hirsch was nominated for an Oscar in 1981 for “Ordinary People,” went on to fame in TV in “Taxi” and other shows, has two Tony Awards for Best Actor in a Play, and now his time has come. Bravo!
Don’t miss this movie It’s not playing on Netflix. Get in the car, and go. You will not be disappointed.