Steven Spielberg brought his semi-autobiographical film, “The Fabelmans,” to the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 10, his first feature ever to debut at TIFF. To say that Spielberg is performing at the top of his game is no hyperbole. This dramatic opus, which pulls at the heartstrings, could bring Spielberg his third directing statuette (after “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan”), and maybe his second for best picture (after “Schindler’s List”).
“The Fabelmans” is the story of Sam Fabelman, a young boy who falls in love with cinema, but finds himself fighting family turmoil to keep his dream alive.
Spielberg’s direction is the glue that holds “The Fabelmans” together, and the film touches on many of his landmark styles, nodding to “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Saving Private Ryan” and more.
The script, by Tony Kushner and Spielberg, brilliantly illustrates the birth of a filmmaker, and could net Spielberg his first nom for screenwriting.
After four Oscar nominations for acting (starting with “Brokeback Mountain”), Michelle Williams’ winning moment seems to have arrived. She could be a supporting actress steamroller this season unless a lead campaign is decided upon, but that would be a mistake.
In other supporting news, Judd Hirsch delivers a one-scene smash. At 87, the veteran actor shows he still has star quality. His presence is reminiscent of Alan Arkin when he won for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006).
As Sam’s father, Paul Dano delivers his finest work since “There Will Be Blood” (2007). Seth Rogen, as the family’s best friend, plays a role that’s more sentimental than his average fare.
A star is born in Gabriel LaBelle as teenage Sam, who carries most of the film. If the Academy recognizes the 19-year-old actor, he would be in the top three youngest lead actor nominees ever behind Jackie Cooper (“Skippy”) and Mickey Rooney (“Babes in Arms”).
Composer John Williams is extraordinary. Janusz Kamiński’s cinematography is his best in 15 years since “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Look out for the rest of the artisans to come on board for the ride for production design, costumes, editing, makeup and hairstyling and sound. This could be the most nominated film of the year, though it’s still early in the season.