Photo courtesy Universal Pictures

Steven Spielberg was the reason I learned that there was a person called a director behind every movie. After cranking out films like “Jaws,” “E.T.” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that loomed like giants over my childhood, I understood that directors were the creative engines that made a movie go.

Now, nearly 50 years after directing his first feature film, Spielberg has directed and co-written a romanticized movie about his own artistic journey towards becoming one of the preeminent filmmakers of the past half-century.

“The Fabelmans” are a stand-in for the Spielbergs as we follow young Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) from boyhood through adolescence as he navigates family drama while chasing his dream of making movies.

Sammy has to endure the typical trials and tribulations of coming of age in post-war America, while also being pulled in different directions by his well-meaning, but polar-opposite parents.

Sammy’s father Burt (Paul Dano) is a scientist working in the infancy of the computer industry. Burt admires the technical skills Sammy employs to make his movies, but regards it as little more than a hobby.

His mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams) is an artist, a former concert pianist stifled by domestic life. She encourages Sammy to follow his muse, even while her own emotional swings make home-life anything but stable.

Sammy also encounters several potential mentors along the way who prove to be both inspirational and cautionary tales, such as his father’s best friend (Seth Rogen), an eccentric great-uncle (Judd Hirsch) and a legendary director (David Lynch).

As young Sammy makes war movies with his Boy Scout troop or puts together highlights from a family vacation, he realizes the power of his camera not only to capture the world around him, but his ability to control and manipulate what he ultimately shows to his audience.

“The Fabelmans” is unquestionably Spielberg’s most personal film to date, but more than anything the movie is a love-letter to the art of filmmaking. It’s also a little over-indulgent, clocking in at two-and-a-half hours.

If anything, Spielberg is giving us a window into what makes him tick and if you just so happen to be a movie lover, it is a window you will be delighted to look through.

“The Fabelmans” is rated PG-13 for some strong language, thematic elements, brief violence and drug use.  

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