Steven Spielberg’s ‘ego-massaging’ autobiographic movie The Fabelmans is an ‘exhausting’ dud

Steven Spielberg’s ‘ego-massaging’ autobiographic movie The Fabelmans is canned in early reviews: Critics say it’s an ‘exhausting’ dud that ‘does not touch the heart or the mind’

  • Steven Spielberg’s new film The Fabelmans has received mixed reviews as reviewers called it ‘ego-massaging’ and ‘only intermittently interesting’ 
  • The film is largely based on Spielberg’s own life path of becoming a director and is his most personal film to date 
  • It follows a young Sammy Fabelman, who becomes interested in making films after seeing The Greatest Show on Earth and eventually becomes a director 
  • The Observer claimed it was ‘less than mesmerized’ by the 151-minute film and it was ‘not always worth the effort’ 
  • The Globe and Mail was equally harsh, writing: ‘[It] did not touch my heart, and it did not touch my mind. It only poked me in the eye, and kicked me in the shins’
  • However, not every critic hated it, with the Seattle Times writing that it was a ‘movie about dreams’ and ‘about being seen’ 

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s memoir film The Fabelmans received mixed reviews after its debut, with many top critics agreeing it was ‘ego-massaging’ and it didn’t ‘touch the heart or the mind.’ 

Nearly two weeks after Spielberg’s new film dropped in theaters on November 11, some critics seem to be torn on whether or not the film – which is largely based on director’s life story – is perfectly ‘dreamy’ or two-and-a-half hours too long. 

Many negative reviews have hammered down on the storyline being a giant ‘ego massage’ for Spielberg, 75, and ‘only intermittently interesting.’ 

While more positive reviews call it a ‘movie about dreams’ and complimented the final scene that’s so good it’s ‘reason enough to see a movie that, true to its title, lends a gentle fairy-tale sheen to even the most painful memories of the filmmaker’s youth.’ 

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg's memoir film The Fabelmans received mixed reviews after its debut on November 11. His new film is largely based off his own life and is his most personal tale yet

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s memoir film The Fabelmans received mixed reviews after its debut on November 11. His new film is largely based off his own life and is his most personal tale yet 

The Fabelmans follows a young Sammy Fabelman, who becomes interested in making films after seeing The Greatest Show on Earth. The boy begins to make home movies and event becomes a Hollywood director

The Fabelmans follows a young Sammy Fabelman, who becomes interested in making films after seeing The Greatest Show on Earth. The boy begins to make home movies and event becomes a Hollywood director

Although reviews were mixed, critics could agree that Michelle Williams (pictured), who plays Spielberg's mother, had a 'dazzling' and 'astonishing' performance

Although reviews were mixed, critics could agree that Michelle Williams (pictured), who plays Spielberg’s mother, had a ‘dazzling’ and ‘astonishing’ performance 

The movie drew Oscar buzz as an early front-runner as it filtered through film festivals, but since it’s nationwide release, the road to the nomination isn’t so yellow bricked. 

Despite differing opinions, one thing is for sure: Michelle Williams, who plays Spielberg’s mother had a ‘dazzling’ and ‘astonishing’ performance. 

The Fabelmans follows a young Sammy Fabelman, who becomes interested in making films after seeing The Greatest Show on Earth. The boy begins to make home movies and eventually becomes a Hollywood director. 

The 151-minute film has so far received wide critical praise, bringing in 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and 84 percent on Metacritic, which aggregates reviews. 

DailyMail.com takes a look at some of the top critics’ reviews of Spielberg’s The Fabelmans.  

The Observer was ‘less than mesmerized’ with Spielberg’s ‘self-portrait’ 

Rating: 3/4 stars 

The Observer harshly criticized the film, calling it an 'ego massage' for Spielberg and that it was 'less than mesmerizing'

The Observer harshly criticized the film, calling it an ‘ego massage’ for Spielberg and that it was ‘less than mesmerizing’ 

After Spielberg’s impressive 58 films, Observer critic, Rex Reed, was hoping for something more. 

‘If you want to make an ego-massaging movie about yourself that runs for two-and-a-half hours, you better have a damned good story to tell,’ he said in the first paragraph of his scathing review.  

‘In my opinion, Mr. Spielberg’s life story is always slickly directed, professionally written (a collaborative effort by the director and prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner) and admirably acted by an appealing cast, but only intermittently interesting and less than what I’d call mesmerizing. 

‘As life stories turned into screen bios go, this one is not always worth the effort.’ 

The storyline follows a young Sammy Fabelman – who is supposed to represent Spielberg himself – on his journey to becoming a director and making some of Hollywood’s biggest film, all while dealing with a dysfunctional family. 

Throughout the film, young Sammy captures the moment his parents divorce, his first romantic encounter with a Christian girl, and having to deal with anti-Semitic hostility. 

Despite all that, Reed said he was ‘wishing for a more unconventional storyline’ and oftentimes found himself ‘glancing at my watch.’ 

Although, Reed admitted The Fabelmans does show ’empathy and the value of human relationships’ that is ‘rarely’ seen in his work, outside of blockbusters Schindler’s List and The Color Purple. 

The Seattle Times called the feature a ‘movie about dreams’ and claimed it was a ‘lovely ode to filmmaking’ 

Rating: 3.5/4 stars 

The Seattle Times called it a 'shimmering' display and was a 'movie about dreams'

The Seattle Times called it a ‘shimmering’ display and was a ‘movie about dreams’ 

As the movie follows Spielberg’s greatest wish to become a filmmaker, the project is precisely a ‘movie about dreams.’ 

Seattle Times critic, Moira Macdonald, was enthralled by the depictions of the ‘kind of dreams that propel you as a young person into the adult you want to be.’ 

In a ‘shimmering’ display of praise, she said Spielberg’s autobiography film was ‘haunting’ to watch and called it the three-time Academy Award winner’s ‘superhero origin story.’ 

‘The Fabelmans is a movie about being seen – and about learning to see,’ Macdonald wrote. 

The Globe and Mail said the high cost of making the ‘home movie’ did nothing but miss the mark: ‘The Fabelmans did not touch my heart, and it did not touch my mind’ 

Rating: Not rated 

In one of the most damning reviews, The Globe and Mail 's Barry Hertz hardly held back his critiques of Spielberg's new movie, saying it: '[It] did not touch my heart, and it did not touch my mind. It only poked me in the eye, and kicked me in the shins'

In one of the most damning reviews, The Globe and Mail ‘s Barry Hertz hardly held back his critiques of Spielberg’s new movie, saying it: ‘[It] did not touch my heart, and it did not touch my mind. It only poked me in the eye, and kicked me in the shins’ 

In one of the most damning reviews, The Globe and Mail‘s Barry Hertz hardly held back his critiques of Spielberg’s new movie. 

After receiving early praise at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Hertz found himself disagreeing with the riveting reviews and Oscar buzz.  

‘I have dreaded attempting to pull the trigger on a critique. But a deadline is a deadline,’ Hertz wrote. 

He admitted that Spielberg is ‘our greatest living American filmmaker’ and said he was a big fan of the ultra-famous director, who has also directed West Side Story, Saving Private Ryan, and Jaws, among many others. 

However, The Fabelmans missed its mark with Hertz, as he wrote: ‘[It] did not touch my heart, and it did not touch my mind. It only poked me in the eye, and kicked me in the shins.’ 

He also called the movie – which cost $40million to make – as ‘essentially the most expensive home movie ever made.’ 

He went on to say that Spielberg and his longtime cowriter Tony Kushner – who he wrote West Side Story, Lincoln, and Munich with – neglected to ‘extend [Spielberg’s] parents beyond archetypes.’ 

‘The ultimate result is an embarrassing thing to witness, especially as the film crawls toward the 150-minute mark – and this is a hill of judgment I’m willing to die on given the otherwise bafflingly rapturous reception to [Michelle] Williams’s work,’ he wrote.  

Hertz, like many other critics, praised Williams as the mother. 

Although he disagreed that the film was ‘self-indulgent,’ he also said fans could learn more about Spielberg by ‘watching almost any other Steven Spielberg film.’  

The Washington Post claimed the film ‘does it all’ and praised the final scene as the ‘reason’ to watch 

Rating: 3.5/4 stars 

Washington Post critic, Ann Hornaday, claimed the movie 'does it all' and said it was 'enthralling'

Washington Post critic, Ann Hornaday, claimed the movie ‘does it all’ and said it was ‘enthralling’

Washington Post critic, Ann Hornaday, claimed the movie ‘does it all, with an expansive spirit and that quintessential Spielbergian combination of honesty and sentiment.’ 

‘It tells the truth, at a honeyed, ameliorating slant,’ she said of the autobiographic film. 

She largely focused on her feelings about the final scene, saying ‘that scene – and the wink that follows it – is reason enough to see a movie.’ 

Hornaday compared the movie to Belfast and Armageddon Time in terms of ‘creative journeys’ and said the films are ‘moral ones.’ 

‘The Fabelmans is at its most effective – enthralling,’ she wrote.  

The Daily Beast called the Oscar buzzworthy movie ‘sappy’ and said it was lacking the ‘magic’ of cinema 

Rating: No rating  

Daily Beast critic, Nick Schager, who reviewed the film in September, called it 'earnest to a tee,' but said it lacked the 'magic of the movies'

Daily Beast critic, Nick Schager, who reviewed the film in September, called it ‘earnest to a tee,’ but said it lacked the ‘magic of the movies’ 

Daily Beast critic, Nick Schager, who reviewed the film in September, called it ‘earnest to a tee,’ but said it lacked the ‘magic of the movies.’ 

‘It’s a drama about the magic of the movies that itself is far too often lacking in that department,’ he wrote.  

He said the movie was ‘so specific,’ the scene felt as if it was ‘ripped from Spielberg’s memories.’ 

‘Such particulars, however, embellish a tale that never gets beneath the surface. Rather than layering the material with conflict and contradiction, Spielberg and Kushner spell out every idea either via italicized pronouncements…or through self-conscious compositions,’ he wrote. 

He called the film a ‘lightly-fictionalized fable,’ which plays into the name of the movie, but said it doesn’t one provide a highlight reel of the multi-award winning director’s life. 

‘Spielberg’s latest is a sincere and compassionate attempt to reckon with his parents’ strengths and failings, and the role that the movies (and this movie) played in helping him better comprehend them,’ he wrote. 

‘The problem is that comprehends them too well, by which I mean, too neatly. There’s nothing mysterious about these figures or this endeavor; rather, it’s just an alternately sweet and meandering recap of the director’s formative early days, sprinkled with the occasional easily digestible nugget of wisdom.’ 

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