The Fabelmans Reviews Are In, See What Critics Are Saying About Steven Spielberg’s Semi-Autobiographical Drama

The Fabelmans
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Steven Spielberg has been behind the camera to tell some of Hollywood’s best cinematic stories, through films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler's List, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, and the list goes on and on. In The Fabelmans, which is set for a wide release in theaters this week, he will tap into the emotions of his own story, as he explores how his love of movies gave him insight into his dysfunctional upbringing. The movie was a big hit when it premiered at Toronto International Film Festival in September, winning the People's Choice Award, and the reviews are in to give us a little more information about The Fabelmans, which is unsurprisingly already receiving 2023 Oscars buzz.

Rather than use the director and co-writer’s own name, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical drama tells the story of the fictional Fabelmans. Gabriel LaBelle stars as Sammy Fabelman and is surrounded by an impressive ensemble that includes Michelle Williams and Paul Dano as his parents and Seth Rogen as his favorite “uncle.” Let’s see what the critics have to say ahead of its theatrical release, starting with CinemaBlend Managing Editor Sean O’Connell. He attended a screening of the film at TIFF and says he was blown away by the heartfelt masterpiece, awarding it a full 5-star rating. Check out his video review below: 

Robert Daniels of Polygon agrees that The Fabelmans is a masterpiece, saying that rather than a cliché ode to moviemaking, Steven Spielberg shows vulnerability, as he reaches into the past to heal old but still-tender wounds. In the critic’s words:

The Fabelmans is Spielberg exercising his vast filmmaking knowledge to compose a story where his entire heart is stapled across the screen. It’s beautiful, evocative, enthralling blockbuster filmmaking, perfectly tuned to remind viewers of the power that can reside within a movie.

Leah Greenblatt of EW is among many who are praising Michelle Williams for her beautiful and “devastating” turn as Sammy’s mother. The critic says because it’s Steven Spielberg, everything is meticulously rendered in wistful sentiment, giving a grade of B+: 

As much as it is Spielberg's personal history, The Fabelmans is also a fervent, hand-on-heart testament to the eternal lure of movies, made by one of the foremost magicians of the craft. If it all feels a little sanitized and idealized, it's also consistently lovely — and after 75 years and 34 films, who more than Spielberg has earned the right to revisit his stardust memories?

Brian Truitt of USA TODAY rates the movie 3 out of 4 stars, saying the iconic director sprinkles his signature wonder throughout the film: 

Boosted by yet another dazzling score from Spielberg’s old friend, the legendary John Williams, Fabelmans captures the magic of how one film can change you – the sight of young Sammy seeing an epic car crash on screen is probably a similar feeling to how many have felt watching the director’s classics over the past four decades. It may not be his best, but Spielberg still rouses like no other, with a funny, heartfelt and personal story and a meta final shot that’ll leave moviegoers with a big grin.

Erin Brady of Consequence grades the movie a B, noting that with the highs of the film being so high, the low points stick out that much more. Despite some amazing performances and the movie’s tendency to stick with you when it’s over, this critic felt like the revered filmmaker is keeping the viewer at arms-length, according to this review: 

So, what’s with the somewhat low grade if everything described thus far has been positive? It all comes down to the fact that it doesn’t feel as immersive and all-consuming as many of the iconic director’s other films. Of course, this could be a result of its framing as a look into a fictional Spielberg’s life, but when so many of his movies are built on bringing audiences into its world, it feels strange, being an observer rather than an insider.

If this sounds like a movie you’d like to see on the big screen, you can check it out starting on Wednesday, November 23. Also, be sure to also check out CinemaBlend’s interviews with the cast of The Fabelmans, including Michelle Williams, Paul Dano and Seth Rogan. 

The year may be almost over, but there's plenty left on the 2022 Movie Release Schedule, and you can always take a look at what’s coming to the big screen in 2023 as well. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.