Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Gabriel LaBelle, Paul Dano, Michelle Williams, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, Keeley Karsten, Sophia Kopera
Co-written with playwright and regular collaborator Tony Kushner, Spielberg's latest is part semi-autobiographical coming of age drama and part, inevitably, ode to the power and potency of cinema. Newcomer Gabriel Labelle is Sammy Fabelman, a boy growing up in New Jersey in the early 50s with his three sisters. His dad Burt (Dano) is an accomplished computer engineer; his erratic mother Mitzi (Williams), a talented pianist struggling with stifling domesticity. Family gatherings are enlivened when Burt’s close friend and colleague, the funny and irreverent Bennie (Rogen) shows up. After his parents take Sammy to see his first movie ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’, a passion for film is ignited. A visit from wildly eccentric Uncle Boris (a hammy Judd Hirsch) seals the deal and Sammy is allowed to borrow his dad’s 8mm camera. Burt’s job means the family must move to Arizona, with Bennie in tow. Later, a lucrative offer from IBM means they must move again to Northern California. Sammy, a talented autodidact, continues to make ever more elaborate pictures using his family and school friends, partly to avoid traumatic thoughts about his parent’s troubled marriage. It’s an unwieldly and overstuffed picture with sequences ranging from the dazzling to the merely rote. The self-consciously cinematic passages, particularly one gorgeous, shattering, dialogue-free reveal, in which Sammy pieces together the truth about his parents, feels far truer than the verbose, supposedly more grounded scenes. Arguably that’s the point. A cheeky and very amusing cameo at the conclusion ends the film on a high point.
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