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The Fabelmans Review | For the Love of Movies

Leave it to Steven Spielberg to make the best entry in the “kid who loves movies” subgenre.



It’s funny, it feels as though the “kid who loves movie biopic” trope has become a subgenre of sorts in recent years. I think in my mind, the likes of Belfast — a film that isn’t about a love for cinema — and Hugo — a film about a love for cinema — and Empire of LIght — which seems to be a film about a love for cinema — have overlapped. Sure, I know they are different, but it feels like every filmmaker aspires to make a film loosely based on their life and that really laments the fact they do indeed love cinema. Steven Spielberg’s addition to the genre, The Fabelmans, very well could be the best of them all but is not without its flaws. Do I understand the complete critical acclaim and most calling it a Best Picture shoo-in? I understand it, yes. The Fabelmans is the perfect critical darling about one of cinema’s most influential filmmakers yet it’s like Rolling Stone reviewing a Paul McCartney album. Will they give a negative review to one of the world’s greatest musicians? Hell no. The Fablemans isn’t as bad as McCartney’s worst album, but I also struggle to completely get on board with the notation that this is the best film of the year. 

“Movies are a dream, doll — you’ll never forget them,” promises Mitzi (Michelle Williams) in an effort to calm her anxious young son who’s about to enter a movie theater for the first time. As they say, your mother is always right, and after Sammy Fabelman (played by Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord in his younger years and Gabrielle LaBelle in his teenage years) is taken to the cinema for the first time by his parents Mitzi and Burt (Paul Dano), his fascination with the art of filmmaking intensifies. Like a young child before they can speak, he just has a hard time expressing that. He watches The Greatest Show on Earth and the sequence where a train crashes into a car lingers in his mind well after the reel stops playing. This leads to an obsession until he receives some toy trains for Hannekah and it’s not until he films it that he finds some catharsis. 

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

And Sammy has talent, wouldn’t you know! From his early days of filming his toy trains, he also exhibits a Roger Deakins-like ability to capture images on film. This continues into his formative teenage years, bringing joy and pride to his entire family as they watch the evolution of his craftsmanship at every boy scout meeting. 

But like real life, there is a world outside of movies. Sammy’s parents, after initially settling in Phoenix, move to northern California where the Fabelmans are outcasts in the land of giants. Sammy is picked on by a group of jocks and it’s a miserable experience. Add to the fact Sammy holds onto a secret involving his mother and his “uncle” Bennie — who is not really part of the family and is only at family gatherings because he “works for” Burt, according to his mother.

All that critics have talked about are the performances of Williams and LaBelle. They’re both great — especially the former — but why are we overlooking Dano and Francis-DeFord? Considering that most of Dano’s roles consist of him breathing funny and whimpering in his speech, it’s weird to see him in such a humane role. It’s like seeing Tim Roth in films like Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight and then watching him play a screenwriter in Bergman Island. It’s truly remarkable. Francis-DeFord is just adorable as a younger Sammy and I wish we had gotten even more of him before advancing a few years. See the still below to catch a glimpse of the anxiety on his face while watching his mother watch one of his films. If you are close to your mother, you’ve likely had a similar moment at some point.

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Williams is the emotional anchor of the film and is great on her own and in her scenes with LaBelle. As her life continues to derail along with her mental stability, Williams adds empathy to the character despite some shitty actions her character commits. Maybe it’s the “mama’s boy” in me but my heart just melted seeing her reactions to Sammy’s films, the pride and joy her son’s hobby — sorry, passion — brought her. 

I know that we all love Rogen, but he’s surprisingly good in the film. Don’t fret, his signature laugh makes its way into the film on a handful of occasions, but despite shitty actions much like Mitzi, you can’t completely despise Bennie. Something about Rogen’s aura and connection with the Fabelman kids feels in line with that family friend whom you call your uncle. Bennie’s also the “cool uncle” who overshadows Burt at every point. Whether intentional or not, we all know how it feels to constantly be pushed down by your good friend yet you still can’t give them up.

It’s also great to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood scene-stealer Julia Butters in another role. She plays Reggie Fabelman, one of Sammy’s sisters, and it’s a great way of getting back on track after starring in The Gray Man (which is essentially shooting yourself in the foot). She has quite a turbulent relationship with Sammy and is always there to stick up for her mother when Sammy is being harsh.

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Ironically, towards the end of what feels like the end of the film, Burt says to Sammy, “We’ve gone too far into our story to say ‘the end.’” The Fabelmans feels like it has finally reached its natural catharsis and while it always kept my attention up to this point, I felt we had emotionally peaked. Unfortunately for me, the film then proceeds to go on for another 15 minutes to utilize an admittedly great cameo from David Lynch that is equal parts brilliant and unnecessary. This epilogue wasn’t enough to completely sour my thoughts on the film but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth.

My biggest complaint, however, is with one particular bit in the film. Most of the humor in The Fabelmans was fine, but I want to preface this by saying that I think there are some tasteful ways of taking digs at Christians — just look at Honk for Jesus or The Eyes of Tammy Faye — but there’s a bit in The Fabelmans revolving around Sammy’s first girlfriend, Monica (Chloe East) that just didn’t land for me. I’m not posing as a “Holier than thou” Christian — I’m far from a practicing Christian — but there’s a recurring bit revolving around the term “praying” being used as an innuendo for kissing. Sounds harmless enough, right? The issue comes in the actual portrayal of Monica, which is reduced down to a caricature of a “Jesus freak” more than anything else. So yeah, Monica prays, she wishes for the Lord to “come inside her,” but it’s not until Sammy asks the Lord to “come inside him” that they can kiss. Again, I’m not saying Christians should be immune to jokes as they have been for years, but this bit felt weirdly out of place considering the fact that Monica acts relatively normal in any other scene. To her credit, East goes for it all.

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

There’s an intrinsic magic within the confines of the 150-minute runtime of The Fabelmans and you just know you’re witnessing something special. Spielberg is one of the most influential figures in all of cinema, and while I may not be the world’s biggest Jaws or E.T. fan, this is a filmmaker that brought the Indiana Jones series to life and made my childhood. Perhaps this is why I’m lenient enough to ignore some of the cliches in The Fabelmans. I also found that Spielberg subverts expectations in his own subtle ways. For example, Sammy gets bullied by the jocks — namely Sam Rechner’s character — but Spielberg found a way to subvert expectations in this cliched subplot. It’s not that Spielberg completely flips the expected outcome on its head. Rather, he finds a new route to get the characters to the same endpoint most of these coming-of-age films come to. That final scene between LaBelle and Rechner is admittedly great and this is where I really would have liked the film to commence

While this subgenre of “directors making movies about loving movies” is on the verge of becoming cliche, I think Spielberg’s message of creative expression and doing what you want is valuable. The Fabelmans isn’t perfect, and I fear its reputation will become tainted in the coming months should it be the Oscar front-runner everyone expects. As of now, it’s the perfect Thanksgiving film for you and your family and as vulnerable as a filmmaker of Spielberg’s stature will be.

The Fabelmans is playing in select theaters now.


Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Chloe Domont’s ‘Fair Play’ Is A Spellbinding Debut That Challenges Gender Dynamics



Alden Ehrenreich as Luke and Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in 'Fair Play'. (Netflix)

Chloe Domont’s debut film, Fair Play, opens with a captivating scene that foreshadows the thrilling and thought-provoking journey ahead. A deeply in love couple, caught up in the excitement of a wedding, find themselves in a bathroom, passionately kissing. As their intimacy escalates, there is a surprising twist—blood stains their clothes. They share a giggle amidst the exhilaration, and their eyes land on a ring on the floor. With blood on their hands and a murder yet to be revealed, they go down on their knees once more, this time for a proposal. The scene sets the stage for a story that combines elements of romance, finance, and psychological intrigue.

Domont skillfully ventures beyond the trappings of a typical workplace affair and delves into the dark world of financial thrillers through a mesmerizing psychological puzzle. By taking a subtle narrative twist, she explores the fragility of gender dynamics. In a perfect love story, had Luke been promoted, everything would have been idyllic. However, Emily’s success and her private chamber disrupt their relationship, unveiling its underlying fractures. Overwhelmed with guilt, Emily immediately apologizes to Luke for achieving professional success. This familiar dynamic unfolds, highlighting society’s conditioning of women to downplay their achievements.

Alden Ehrenreich as Luke and Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in ‘Fair Play’. (Netflix)

Unlike traditional didactic tales, Fair Play abstains from presenting a clear moral center. Luke is not portrayed as a monster. Initially, he expresses pride in Emily’s success. However, something within him snaps as he faces the corrosive atmosphere of men assuming that Emily slept her way to the top. Emily, too, is drawn into the boys’ locker room conversations, refusing to concede her hard-earned accomplishments.

With astute storytelling and a refusal to pause for respite, Domont takes Fair Play on an unexpected trajectory. The film’s pacing mirrors the emotional claustrophobia of a chamber drama, intensifying the toxic power dynamics that shift nauseatingly fast. The narrative highlights how even well-intentioned condescension can overshadow narratives of men advocating for their female partners. It underscores the reality that equality in love, within heteronormative relationships, relies on unequal gender politics.

Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in ‘Fair Play’. (Netflix)

Cinematographer Menno Mans contributes to the film’s tension through tight close-up shots of the characters. This visual approach accelerates the emotional intensity woven into their relationship. The exceptional performances of the film’s two lead actors further complicate a linear reading of the story, lending an additional layer of ambivalence. The bathroom scene at the beginning recurs in a darker context near the film’s climax, showcasing the dramatic shift in the actors’ body language. Dynevor expertly weaponizes the fragility of her frame, while Ehrenreich masterfully adapts to his character’s evolving mentality. The film progressively transforms Luke from a genuinely loving and lucky man into a familiar representation of a man that resonates with the experiences of many women.

The return of blood on the floor symbolizes an undisclosed satisfaction, leaving the audience captivated by the film’s powerful exploration of gender dynamics and the human psyche.

Alden Ehrenreich as Luke and Phoebe Dynevor as Emily in Fair Play. (Netflix)

To be honest, FAIR PLAY is not what I expected and I enjoyed it very much. A captivating thriller that explores how power, gender roles, and workplace relationships interact.

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Prime Video

Gen V Season 1 is Bloody and Disgusting, Yet Utterly Compelling



Ever since The Boys premiered on Prime Video in 2019, it has consistently dropped jaws and blown people’s minds with its weirdly whacky, bloody and horny storytelling about corrupt superheroes. Hollywood had never seen anything quite like this. It is developed by Eric Kripke and creative forces such as Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were also involved. Three incredible seasons have made it into one of the biggest shows right now. It was no surprise that Prime Video would expand such a beloved universe and greenlight a spinoff series titled Gen V which is finally coming to Prime Video.


Gen V is focused around teen supes studying at Godolkin University, who strive to make their careers in crime fighting and potentially join the seven one day. This 8-episode series is set after the events of The Boys Season 3. This series is developed by Eric Kripke, Craig Rosenberg, and Evan Goldberg. It stars Jaz Sinclair, Chance Perdomo, Maddie Phillips, Lizzie Broadway, and Patrick Schwarzenegger among others.


If anyone was worried that this series would not be as wild and horny as The Boys just because it is set around teens, let me put those worries to bed because this series stays true to every aspect of its predecessor and maintains the unfiltered storytelling throughout. The tone is as outlandish as always and keeps up all the horniness in the characters, including the obsession with penises. It is very much a hard R-rated show, so it might be safe to think about who you recommend it to.

Chance Perdomo (Andre Anderson)

The performances here are excellent, by everyone. Jaz Sinclair who plays Marie Moreau, and Chance Perdomo who plays Andre Anderson are particularly great. They have an emotional vulnerability that makes them totally convincing and makes the viewer sympathize with them. Shelley Conn is mysterious and shrewd as Dean Shetty. Maddie Phillips and Lizzie Broadway are good too. But there isn’t a powerhouse performance such as Antony Starr as Homelander.

The story still revolves around supes, though this time a younger generation of them, and the overall world-building of this franchise but it is surprisingly deeper and more mature than most would expect. At its core, there is a meaningful coming-of-age story about dealing with loss, power and the pressure of high expectations. Every character has interesting arcs and the character development is very smooth. The writers also managed to juggle so many subplots at the same time and managed to keep most of them intriguing. The pacing is also very consistent and rarely slows down.

Several people just find The Boys too disgusting and can’t stand the extreme and explicit nature of the narrative. Gen V also runs on a very similar track in terms of storytelling. So those who did not enjoy The Boys, will most probably not enjoy the new spin-off either. But this show will definitely delight the die-hard fans of this iconic franchise. Gen V does take a lot of shortcuts in its narrative and I wish they let the relationships between characters marinate for a little while longer. The plot may also seem overstuffed at times and there is arguably a lack of action so far.

Gen V embraces the outrageousness of The Boys while delivering an engaging coming-of-age story and manages to stand out on its own. It is as bloody, horny, crudely funny and dramatic as you would expect. The series finds new energy and carries the legacy of its predecessor. The first six episodes are thoroughly engaging and get you invested in the characters and their motivations. Expect to have a blast and see a lot of cameos.

Episodes Viewed – 6 out of 8.

Gen V episodes 1-3 will stream on Prime on September 29 with the finale on November 3.

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The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar Is Wes Anderson’s Delightful Take On Roald Dahl’s Sweet Story



Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar in Roald Dahl's 'The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar' (Netflix)

Roald Dahl and Wes Anderson have both left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of generations. Dahl’s timeless stories have enchanted readers for decades, while Anderson’s groundbreaking films have pushed the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. Their unique talents and shared appreciation for the power of literature have now converged in Anderson’s latest masterpiece, the modern short film adaptation of Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.

Anderson, known for his extraordinary attention to detail and distinctive visual style, brings Dahl’s adult-friendly tale to life in a truly captivating way. With a star-studded cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, and Ben Kingsley, the film stays true to the author’s original text, with the actors delivering their lines directly from the page. This dedication to the literary essence of the story sets the stage for Anderson’s exceptional storytelling.

Dev Patel as Dr. Chatterjee, Sir Ben Kingsley as Imdad Khan and Richard Ayoade as Dr. Marshall in Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Following his previous successful adaptation of Dahl’s work with the Oscar-nominated The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson is poised to once again captivate audiences with The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. In a mere 37 minutes, this short film manages to deliver a delightful and heartwarming experience that can beat any full-length feature film. The commitment and power of the A-list cast shine throughout, ensuring a resounding success on multiple levels.

From the very beginning, Fiennes embodies Dahl himself, narrating the tale as he seamlessly transitions between the comfort of his home and the picturesque outdoors.  By applying freeze-frame techniques and cleverly staged tableaus, Fiennes and his fellow actors walk through different sets that are magically transformed by on-screen “stagehands” right before our eyes. This dynamic interplay between reality and cunningness is a testament to Anderson’s growing fascination with the theatrical aspects of filmmaking.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar not only captures the imaginative essence found in Dahl’s works but also showcases the filmmaker’s mastery of visual storytelling. Each scene is meticulously crafted, with Anderson’s staging drawing heavily on theatrical influences. Costume changes happen seamlessly on camera, resulting in Ben Kingsley’s Khan humorously questioning the whereabouts of his mustache. Furthermore, practical effects, including a delightful box trick, add to the mesmerizing experience of witnessing the film’s creation unfold before our eyes.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar and Ralph Fiennes as the policeman in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Anderson’s choice to create a short film rather than a feature-length production proves to be a stroke of genius. The pacing remains consistently engaging, ensuring that viewers remain captivated from start to finish. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is a visual feast, an entertaining experience, and, above all, a whole lot of fun.

When it comes to acting, it’s so hard to pick a standout because whenever an actor comes on the screen, he or she gives a performance that stays with you. Benedict Cumberbatch is magnetic in his portrayal of Henry Sugar and mesmerises you with a performance that shows his acting prowess. Ben Kingsley shows us why he is one of the greatest actors of all time. His monologues are truly special. Meanwhile, Dev Patel and Richard Ayoade are the magical new entrants in Anderson’s world of magical stories. Both of them are brilliant in their respective roles.

On the other hand, Ralph Fiennes showcases his versatility by embodying Roald Dahl in the most fantastic way possible.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Henry Sugar in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. Cr. Netflix ©2023

Roald Dahl’s rich storytelling finds new life through Wes Anderson’s innovative cinematic techniques. Their creative collaboration results in a short film that is visually pleasing, emotionally compelling, and brimming with the charm and magic that have made both artists legends in their respective fields. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is not to be missed, as it brings together the best of Dahl and Anderson, leaving audiences enraptured by its undeniable allure. Experience this enchanting journey, and let yourself be swept away by the power of imagination.

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