It’s 1952 in New Jersey and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) and his wife Mitzi (Michelle Williams) are taking their young son Sam (Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord) to his very first big screen theater movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth”. The experience may have been a bit shocking at first but it led to his first train set and his beginning desire to make movies.
Burt’s job started to take off and he was offered a big promotion but he and the family would have to move to Arizona. Mitzi would not have it unless Burt convinced the company to move his best friend and associate Bennie Loewy (Seth Rogen). So, Arizona it is with the entire family, Sam (Gabriel LaBelle) and his siblings Natalie (Keeley Karsten), Reggie (Julia Butters) and their younger sister and of course Uncle Bennie. Life was pretty good in Arizona and everyone seemed to be doing fine, Sam started filming family movies as well as some interesting other titles that were all hits with family and friends. There is one thing though when filming, a camera sometimes captures many things that you may not see at first with your own eyes and Sam found himself capturing some hidden moments that started to cause a tear in the family structure.
When Burt soon received a higher job position it took him and the family to California. Tall jocks and attractive girls were waiting on Sam but soon when he was discovered to be of the Jewish faith matters started to not go in his favor. But time seems to sometimes change one’s fate which was the outcome in Sam’s case. In the end though, everything turns out as it should be, not necessarily the right or wrong way but the way that life seemed to take the Fabelman family.
I am a huge fan of Spielberg but not as much with this story, a mirror image of his childhood. I felt like there was a lack of answers with some of the characters. I mean Spielberg starts to develop a situation or supporting character that adds substance to the story but then they fade away. Pretty much what he does with the topic of anti-Semitism, he goes there to add to the story but again it kind of drops off with little debate. I wanted to know more about the character Logan Hall (Sam Rechner) when Sam films him at a beach party but again its like catching a big fish and it falling off the hook when pulling it into the boat, no clear answers. I know Sam is the main focus but it would be good to add depth to the characters that immediately surround him.
The writers do a good job with Williams and her role of which she is perfection but I would have liked to learn more about some of the other characters that create the interesting environment. Dano was the perfect husband role and he definitely did it justice as does Rogen as the best friend. Obviously though it is LaBelle that steals every scene. If there is one thing that is brilliant in this story it is the acting but the magic just fell short for me. I can’t believe they added a pet monkey in the story, not a good idea since monkeys can be very destructive especially as the age, do not own a monkey!