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'The Fabelmans': Steven Spielberg celebrates family, Judaism & cinema (duh!) in semi-autobiographical film

Inspired by the filmmaker's upbringing in Arizona, The Fabelmans arrives in select theaters Friday, Nov. 11.

By Josh Weiss
The Fabelmans (2022)

Before Jaws, Close Encounters, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark, there was just a wide-eyed young boy with his father's 8mm camera.

After a celebrated filmmaking career spanning more than half a century, director Steven Spielberg reflects on the cinema, family ties, and general formative experiences that shaped him in the first trailer for The Fabelmans. Opening on the big screen this holiday season, the semi-autobiographical project was written by Spielberg and his regulator screenwriting collaborator, Oscar-nominee Tony Kushner (scribe of Munich, Lincoln, and West Side Story). The coming-of-age narrative centers around 16-year-old Sammy Fabelman (played by Gabriel LaBelle), an ambitious storyteller growing up in Arizona and pursuing the life of a professional director — all while navigating the tribulations of a rocky home life, heinous acts of anti-Semitism, and discouragement from loved ones.

Playing the members of Sammy's family are Michelle Williams (artistic mother, Mitzi), Paul Dano (successful and scientific father, Burt), Seth Rogen (Burt's best friend, Bennie, and an honorary uncle to the Fabelman kids), Judd Hirsch (Mitzi's uncle, Boris), Jeannie Berlin (Sammy’s paternal grandmother, Hadassah Fabelman), Julia Butters (Sammy’s sister Reggie), Robin Bartlett (Sammy’s maternal grandmother, Tina Schildkraut), and Keeley Karsten (Sammy’s sister, Natalie).

Watch the trailer below:

This moving love letter to family, heritage, art, and the powerful allure movies hold over us all held its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend and is already generating buzz as a major contender for Best Picture at 95th Academy Awards. It currently holds a fresh rating of 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite rumors of an impending retirement, Spielberg assured the gathered audience that he has no plans to put down his viewfinder anytime soon. “This is not because I’m going to retire and this is my swan song,” he said (via Variety). “Don’t believe any of that.”

In their A-graded review for Collider, Ross Bonaime writes: "With The Fabelmans, Spielberg finally opens himself up to the audience in an extremely vulnerable and moving way. For decades, Spielberg has shown us ourselves through the magic of his movies, and with The Fabelmans, he finally shows us who he is, the good and the bad, and pain and the joys, the magic and the mayhem. Like with last year’s West Side Story, Spielberg has proven himself an undeniable master that can still surprise us with his abilities all these years later, a filmmaker who has consistently changed the possibilities of film, and continues to do so with each new project. Spielberg has given us all so much magic over the course of our lives, and The Fabelmans becomes yet another Spielberg masterpiece, but this time, by showing us how this magic came to be in his own life."

Spielberg and Kushner produced the film alongside Kristie Macosko Krieger (West Side Story). Carla Raij (Maestro) and Josh McLaglen (Free Guy) are executive producers. John Williams (composer), Mark Bridges (costume designer), Rick Carter (production designer), Michael Kahn and Sarah Broshar (co-editors), and Janusz Kaminski (cinematographer) round out the talent behind the camera.

The Fabelmans arrives in select theaters Friday, Nov. 11 from Universal Pictures before its wide release on Thanksgiving.

The Fabelmans TIFF key art UNIVERSAL PRESS