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  • Writer's pictureJordan Drayer

Review of The Fabelmans

I saw Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans yesterday, continuing a family tradition of seeing movies on Christmas day, and in keeping with my want to do movie reviews as blog posts from time to time, here are my thoughts. Obviously spoilers ahead.

The movie is a sort of autobiography of Steven Spielberg's life as a kid and teenager. I am not trained in cinematography, so I can't say things like "this angle did this for the story-telling," and such, but I can speak to the story and the music. Actually I felt like there was a lack of music, but when I think about his other "real" movies like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, there isn't much music in those either. And a lot of the music in the film was what's called diegetic music, meaning the characters hear it too, being played by the mom on the piano or like on the radio. I did love the 50s and 60s music used for that. And of course love that the music was done by my idol, John Williams.

It felt kind of long and slow to me, but many "slice of life" stories do. I'm like, there's no real plot since it's about growing up... so don't go in to this movie expecting a lot of action. It was very real, and I keep using that word, but it's true. Like goofy family moments, people showing the food in their mouth to others - stuff I'd do with my siblings. I loved that human-ness.

What keeps me from enjoying the movie is the mom. And I guess that's kind of the point, as the other characters refer to her as selfish multiple times. She was just so annoying with her random ballerina dance in the headlights, the strange way she grieved for her mother... I suppose she represents a free spirit trapped in a 50's norm of marriage. I wonder how much Spielberg showed us of the real her and how much of this was just a character. Like did they really get a monkey? Was she really so needing to be the center of attention all the time (if so, I can relate to that through one of my parents).

I loved seeing how the boy developed his filming techniques and using the other boy scouts to film. That part plus using his sisters as stars as well just reinvigorated in me the want to do stuff with my friends. So often I feel like I have to do stuff like those who are already famous do. But just doing stuff with friends, doing what I like, writing what I want to write, this is exactly what Spielberg does, and other directors. They do what they want, and maybe there are studio executives telling them certain things, but it seems like they're making what they want most of the time, especially with original stories like this.

I need to get back to my roots of doing what I want. Stuff I did when I was young included playing instruments for parents' friends, writing fanfiction, planning our own cast recording of The Lord of the Rings with friends, and a never accomplished music video to The Pink Panther theme.

Another thing, and people keep clamoring for this in today's age, was that it showed a minority without focusing on their otherness. People keep saying, why can't there be a film where you perhaps have a gay couple, but it's not about their gay-ness but about saving the world? Like why can't you have Black characters and just have them living normal lives, without focusing on slavery and oppression? So this did that: it's a Jewish family, they do some Jewish things like celebrate Hanukkah at the beginning, experience anti-Semitism near the end, and have a Yiddish-speaking uncle. But other than that, you mostly see a normal American family who go camping, do boy scouts, move houses, have embarrassing family dinners - these kinds of things.

The Fabelmans reminded me to do what I love, not what I think needs to be done because it's what other people do. It's about a boy following his dreams, even when, in the following, learns things he wishes he could unsee. He uses his friends and sisters in his movies, and they love him for it. He learns how to tell stories even in seeing his mom's extra-marital love. So maybe I write, and through writing something happens to my family... I must still see it through to the end, if telling stories is what brings me joy. I can't really convey what I mean, but hopefully that's clear.

So while I can't say I enjoyed the movie, because I generally don't like the slice of life genre (though I love coming of age stories), it felt slow, and I was annoyed at the mom, I did like it. It was very real and human, used no big-name stars, told a story of a Jewish family without focusing on their Judaism, and it's a good "follow your dreams" reminder.

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