The Fabelmans Movie Review

It is always fascinating (at least from my perspective) to learn how and why an artist got started.

The new film, The Fabelmans, is the semi-autobiographical story of Steven Spielberg‘s early years. Co-written by Tony Kushner ( who also co-wrote West Side Story), the tale starts in 1952 in New Jersey. Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan) is going to the movies with his parents Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt (Paul Dano).

The Greatest Show on Earth will change Sammy’s life. As the movie shifts in time, an older Sammy (Gabrielle LaBelle) wants to make a career as a filmmaker. While his artist mother encourages him, his scientist father would prefer that his son take another path in life. When his Uncle Boris (Judd Hirsh) comes for a short visit, he also supports Sammy’s dream.

Life becomes more complicated by two moves: the first to Arizona and the second to Northern California. By the time the family settles in California, Sammy is dealing with more complications: the end of his parent’s marriage and the blunt antisemitism he is experiencing in school. Mitzi and his father’s best friend Benny (Seth Rogen) have become more than friends, adding additional pressure to everything that Sammy is going through.

Michelle Williams is going to get at the very least, an Oscar nomination for her role. I felt for her, as both a woman and an artist. As much as she loved her husband and her children, it is obvious that she had a gift for music.

Clocking in at 2 hours and 30 minutes, it goes pretty fast. But even with that pace, some scenes could have been left on the cutting room floor. That being said, it is a love letter to movies and the families we love, foibles and all.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Fabelmans is presently in theaters.

Black And White Movie GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Advertisement

West Side Story Movie Review

Regardless of whether or not one is a fan of Broadway musicals, they are likely to at least know of West Side Story. To make a long story short, it is Romeo and Juliet taken from Italy in the 16th century and put down in New York City in the late 1950s.

The reimagining opens as San Juan Hill, a neighborhood in Manhattan, is being torn down to become what we know today as Lincoln Center. Not surprisingly, the residents of this neighborhood are people of color, immigrants, and low-income Caucasians.

The Montagues and Capulets have been replaced by two warring gangs of young men, fighting to retain unofficial control of what is left of their neck of the woods. Riff (Mike Faist) is the leader of the Jets, who are all White. Bernardo (David Alvarez) is the leader of the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks. Though he has a career as a boxer, he is equally concerned with protecting his family and his fellow Puerto Ricans.

Their fates are changed when Maria (newcomer Rachel Zegler) and Tony (Ansel Elgort) meet at a dance. Maria is Bernardo’s younger sister. Newly arrived in NYC, she is both idealistic and stubborn. Without their parents, the only maternal influence she has is Anita (Ariana DeBose), Bernardo’s girlfriend. Anita is spicy, whip-smart, and is eager to take advantage of the opportunities that lay before her. Tony is Riff’s best friend and his former second in command. After spending a year in prison, he wants more from life than being a hoodlum.

As the two fall in love and envision a life together, their relationship is tested by the violence around them. If they could get those closest to them to find a way to get along, Maria and Tony could have a chance at a future. But as lovely as that idea is, it will take a miracle to make it happen.

Kudos go to director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner. They took a chance on remaking a classic and succeeded. What makes it stand out from its 1961 predecessor is both the casting of Latinx actors and the understanding that socio-economic issues, politics, and racial strife is the backbone of this narrative.

The deliberate decision of seeking out and hiring performers who are from Latin America or of Latin American descent adds a feeling of authenticity that is missing from the original film. Even Rita Moreno, who is also Puerto Rican (Anita in the 1961 movie and Valentina, the co-owner of the pharmacy and widow of the late pharmacist in this adaptation) had her skin darkened.

If there is one performer who stands out, it is Rachel Zegler. In her first on-screen role ever, she shines as Maria. Her voice is absolutely stunning. Most young actors start out as background players or in small roles, slowly building up their resume. To come out of the gate in the lead role in a major movie and blow everyone away shows that she has nothing but a bright future ahead of her.

This narrative is as timely and powerful as it was sixty years ago. The problems have not changed, they just have different names and different faces. If nothing else, it reminds the audience that we have two choices. We can continue to figuratively shoot ourselves in the literal foot, or find a way to work tother.

Though it clocks in at a little over two hours, it is worth sitting through.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

West Side Story is presently in theaters.

%d bloggers like this: