Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’ wins standing ovation, director not retiring
Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’ won a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, as crowds of moviegoers loudly applauded the Oscar-winning author as he made his first appearance at the rally.
“I’m really glad we came to Toronto,” a visibly moved Spielberg said after taking the stage during the end credits.
The director said he was inspired by the COVID pandemic to tell his most personal story yet, a look at his early filmmaking endeavors, his childhood in Arizona and Northern California and the disbandment of his family.
“As things got worse and worse, I felt that if I was going to leave something behind, what was the one thing that I really needed to figure out and unpack about my mom, my dad,” Spielberg said. .
However, he reassured the crowd at TIFF that despite making peace with his past, “The Fabelmans” will not serve as the films’ goodbye.
“It’s not because I’m going to retire and that’s my swan song,” he said. “Don’t believe any of this.”
The film started about 15 minutes late, a small miracle considering the crush of moviegoers waiting outside the Princess of Wales Theater as the premiere of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” had bled into the launch of ” The Fabelmans”. Spielberg was introduced by TIFF creative director Cameron Bailey, who said he was impressed to present the legend (TIFF competed with the Venice and Telluride film festivals to land Spielberg’s latest film). Bailey remembers being 12 years old and falling in love with film thanks to Spielberg’s work.
The director’s autobiographical drama stars Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen and Gabriel LaBelle as Sam Fabelman, Spielberg’s on-screen surrogate.
Prior to the screening, the ‘Jurassic Park’ director felt that in his 34-film career, ‘The Fabelmans’ is his first to officially star in a film festival selection, apparently forgetting that ‘The Bridge Spies” premiered at the New York Film Festival a few years ago. The experience of making this film seemed to cut deeper.
“This movie is, for me, a way to bring my mom and dad back,” said Spielberg, who dedicated the film to his mother, Leah. The director’s three sisters – Anne, Nancy and Sue – were all in the audience for the premiere of ‘The Fabelmans’.
Highlights of the screening included thunderous applause for 87-year-old Judd Hirsch. Playing the role of a great-uncle to Sam, Hirsch delivers an unforgettable monologue about the price an artist pays when it comes to honoring their family. Williams also drew strong reactions for her tender and generous portrayal of Sam’s mother, a woman with an artistic soul who also struggles with depression.
Bailey returned to host a Q&A after the screening, cutting a standing ovation at two minutes to answer questions.
The film’s official synopsis from TIFF reads: “‘The Fabelmans’ is a coming-of-age story about a young man’s discovery of a heartbreaking family secret and an exploration of the power of movies for us. help see the truth about each other and ourselves. The film is based on Spielberg’s own childhood, with Williams and Dano playing variations of the filmmaker’s parents. Spielberg co-wrote the screenplay with his “Lincoln”, “Munich” and “West Side Story” screenwriter Tony Kushner.
“It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s kind of everything,” Williams said. Variety on the project earlier this year. “It’s the greatness of life. We try to reflect all of that.
“My phone beeped and I got a message that Steven wanted to talk to me,” Williams added of landing the role based on Spielberg’s mother. “I couldn’t understand him wanting to work with me. I thought he had a question or something. Then he got on Zoom and told me he wanted me to play this person, his mom.
And Williams is right because the finished product is a two-and-a-half-hour look at the forces that shaped Spielberg, turning him into one of our foremost myth-makers. “Movies are dreams,” Williams’ character tells Sammy at one point in the film, and from “Jaws” to “ET,” no one has been more adept at spinning celluloid fantasies than Spielberg.
The ensemble cast of “The Fabelmans” also includes Jeannie Berlin, Julia Butters, Robin Bartlett, Keeley Karsten and, in a cameo that won’t be spoiled here, David Lynch. The film is produced by Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg and Kushner
“The Fablemans” is backed by Universal Pictures, which is set to release the film in theaters on November 11.