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Opens November 23 • Wide release
Steven Spielberg, probably the most well-known American director, is getting up there in years. Now 75 years old, his recent career moves seem to point to an endgame. (Not everybody can be Clint Eastwood, who directed and starred in 2021’s Cry Macho at 91!) The pandemic-delayed West Side Story was his first full-length musical after proving himself more than capable of great song-and-dance sequences in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and 1941, and it showed a man fulfilling a lifetime dream. (Case in point: He says he’ll never direct another musical.)
This hypothesis holds weight with the release of The Fabelmans, especially since of the films he’s directed, this is only the third one he wrote himself (after Close Encounters of the Third Kind and A.I. Artificial Intelligence). Tracing the life of Sammy Fabelman from ages seven to 18 (the role is split between Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord and Gabriel LaBelle), it’s a semi-autobiographical tale about Spielberg’s childhood in Arizona trying to balance family responsibilities and falling in love with cinema. Paul Dano and Michelle Williams show up as Sammy’s parents, and costars include Seth Rogen in full mensch mode and a small role for David Lynch(!) as a famed filmmaker. The Fabelmans was a huge hit at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award; this not only makes it a shoo-in for a Best Picture Oscar nomination but probably puts it in the lead spot. (The Academy loves movies about movies.)
Even if it’s not his final outing, it continues Spielberg’s fruitful collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. Together, they’ve made some of my favorite of his late-career movies, which would include Munich, the strangely thrilling legal thriller that is Lincoln, and the aforementioned West Side Story (a small miracle of adaptation, one that frequently challenged and reshaped the 65-year-old play). Let’s get Kushner that EGOT, why not, and hope Spielberg is still having an incredible time with over 50 years in the business.
📸: The Fabelmans