The Fabelmans (2022), written by Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, is a semi-autobiographical film based on Speilberg’s childhood. Early in 2022 it was expected to sweep the oscars, but then EEAAO came along and the rest is history.
The screenplay wasn’t a spec and the styling varied. And like Schindler’s List (1990), another Spielberg movie, the act breaks were somewhat weak.
I’ll call the script what it is: An episodic biopic with a focus on interfamily dynamics. Themes include film (obviously), divorce, love, mental illness, anxiety, life, and fulfilling one’s destiny. Genres include coming of age, love story and biopic.
Where does the script come to life? The camera, and Sammy’s brilliance when using it. For example, on pages 42-43 there’s a scene where Sammy (the protagonist) makes holes in the film stock so extra light flashes through, thus giving the impression that the firing of the toy guns is real. It’s a simple moment of thinking outside the box that shows a genius in the making.
Then there’s the interfamily relationship, which more-or-less focuses on Sammy and his mother, as well as his mother and dad’s divorce. The message, shared by his uncle, is again more-or-less that Sammy is destined to follow his dreams of being an artist, a filmmaker. If he doesn’t? He will turn out like this mother. At least, that’s what I got from it.
Finally, Sammy starts in a new school district and is bullied for being Jewish. But like any teen flick, he finds love anyways. This, to me, is where the script fell short. Let me be more specific: The kid-to-kid dynamic wasn’t all that deep or believable. For example, which knucklehead bully would use the word conceited in a sentence? I’m 26 and had no idea what that word meant. This is the same fault that I found in Nerve (2016). However, the scene itself is considered by some to be epic, particularly because Sammy uses the power of film to evoke an emotional response from one of his bullies. The power of film indeed.
Enough rambling. The screenplay was strong. It was readable. It was a fun, entertaining script.
We follow three different stages of Sammy’s life; living in New Jersey, Arizona, and California. It’s episodic, although some themes, particularly the interfamily dynamic, last the length of the screenplay.
All of the characters, including Sammy and his parents, are well-thought-out and believable.
Dialogue & Pacing
The dialogue was strong, with the exception, as noted above, of the kid-to-kid dialogue. There were some truly great scenes, particularly worth noting one of the final ones between John Ford and Sammy.
If you are a product of a broken home, this film will likely elicit a strong emotional response. Likewise, if you grew up in the 50s/60s, had a strong passion as a kid, or were bullied for being different, you will relate to this film. Even if you don’t fit into these categories, there are some powerful scenes, particularly between Sammy and his mother.
Best Part of The Script
- Any of the scenes that involve Sammy and film, such as the fake war movie.
- The scene where Sammy confronts his mom.
- The meeting between John Ford and Sammy (starts on page 140).