THE FABELMANS*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
1952 – On a winter night in New Jersey, Burt (Paul Dano) and Mitzi Fabelman (Michelle Williams) take their son Sammy (Mateo Francis-DeFord) to his very first movie, “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Although Sammy is nervous, his parents assure him that he will have a good time. Sammy ends up being thoroughly engrossed in the film, but the scene that sticks with him the most is when a car crashes into a train and causes a massive pile-up.
Sammy also lives with his sisters – Reggie (Birdie Borria), Natalie (Alina Brace), and baby Lisa. As the family begins to celebrate Hanukkah, Sammy asks for a train set. After building the set, he shows it to his family, but they are stunned when Sammy has the trains crash into each other. Mitzi figures that the scene from the movie is stuck in Sammy’s head out of fear and a need to control his fear, so she buys him a video camera so he can record the train crash and watch it as many times as he wants. Sammy makes a short film with the train crash and shows it to Mitzi, who says it’s the best movie ever.
Sammy starts to make more short films that include his sisters. The Fabelmans are also visited by Burt’s best friend, Bennie Loewy (Seth Rogen), whom the kids view as an uncle. It is also shown that Mitzi is a gifted piano player, which is why she understands Sammy’s own aspirations.
Burt announces to the family that he is moving them to Arizona since his job is moving him and Bennie there. He argues with Mitzi about it since she doesn’t want to uproot their lives, but the kids come in to inform their parents that there is a tornado on the horizon. Mitzi gets Sammy, Reggie, and Natalie in the car and drives to see the tornado closer, almost getting them into a car accident. Shaken up, Mitzi has the kids say, “everything happens for a reason.”
The Fabelmans make the move to Arizona. Years later, Sammy (now played by Gabriel LaBelle) is continuing to make short films with his friends from Boy Scouts, along with Reggie (now played by Julia Butters), Natalie (Keeley Karsten), and Lisa (now played by Sophia Kopera). They go see “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, where one of the boys loudly teases Sammy about a girl he has a crush on, but Sammy remains focused on the movie. He later gathers the other Boy Scouts to help him shoot a western short film, which he presents for all of them and earns a warm reception. Sammy is also shown how to drive by Burt, who discourages his filmmaking endeavors and wants him to do “something that actually matters.”
The family goes with Bennie on a camping trip. Sammy records many shots of them having fun together, with Mitzi acting silly for her kids. At night, Mitzi starts dancing, and Bennie turns on the car headlights to give Sammy good lighting to record it. Reggie attempts to stop her mom because her dress is transparent, but she continues to dance, and the others watch.
Later on, Mitzi’s mother passes away, causing her to fall into a major depression. Burt gets an editing machine and tells Sammy to make a short film of the camping trip, even though Sammy is set to shoot a new film. Burt tells him he is being selfish since he wants Sammy to make the film immediately to cheer his mother up. That night, Mitzi gets what she thinks is a phone call from her mom, warning her about someone coming.
The next morning, the family is visited by Mitzi’s uncle, Boris Schildkraut (Judd Hirsch), whom Mitzi says “scared the crap out of” her mom. Although Boris appears a bit abrasive, he understands Sammy’s fascination with art. He explains how he gave up his own dreams to work and earn easier money, and Boris also says that Mitzi should have been a concert pianist. He encourages Sammy to keep up with his art, even if it conflicts with his family relationships.
Sammy begins to work on the camping film. Throughout the editing process, he notices many clips of Mitzi and Bennie getting very close to one another, even walking off together. This leads to Sammy beginning to resent the two of them. He incorporates his frustration into his direction on his next film, a war movie. He encourages the lead actor to cry for real at the sight of the extras playing his dead soldiers.
Sammy premieres his war film, which receives cheers and applause. However, he starts to deliberately ignore Mitzi and Bennie. After weeks of the same behavior, Sammy and Mitzi get into a big argument that ends with Mitzi slapping Sammy on his bare back, leaving a red handprint. She is immediately regretful but goes to talk to Sammy and asks him to be open with her. Without a word, Sammy gives her the edited reel with footage of her and Bennie. Mitzi is brought to tears but tells Sammy she is sorry and asks him not to tell his father or sisters.
Burt is set to begin a new job, which will require the family to make another move to California. Bennie stays in Phoenix so that there will not be conflicts between Burt and Mitzi. Sammy decides to give up filmmaking and sells his camera, only for Bennie to buy him a new one. Even though Sammy tries to reject it and even pay Bennie back for it, he tells Sammy that he can hate him all he wants, but asks that he does not give up on filmmaking because it would break his mother’s heart.
The Fabelmans make their move to California and stay in a temporary home. Sammy starts high school and quickly gets into hot water with two jocks, Logan (Sam Rechner) and Chad (Oakes Fegley) after Sammy accidentally spikes a volleyball at Logan’s face. When they learn Sammy is Jewish, they begin making anti-Semitic comments at him and call him “Bagelman”. Later, Sammy walks in on Logan making out with a girl named Renee (Chandler Lovelle). When Logan and Chad antagonize Sammy again in front of Logan’s actual girlfriend Claudia (Isabelle Kusman), Sammy blurts out that he caught Logan kissing Renee, which Claudia apparently knew Logan has done before. Logan punches Sammy in the face and demands that he tell Claudia that he lied.
Sammy tells Claudia and her friend Monica (Chloe East) that he lied, but they seem to know that he was forced to say that since he mentioned Renee having red hair. Monica invites Sammy to her house and tries to get him to pray before they begin to make out. They start dating, and Monica has dinner with the Fabelmans, where she encourages Sammy to film their upcoming Ditch Day at the beach. Sammy joins his classmates at the beach and records lots of footage while spending time with Monica and her friends.
When the Fabelmans move into their actual new home, Burt and Mitzi announce to the kids that they are getting a divorce, as Mitzi is still in love with Bennie. Natalie blames Mitzi for their family falling apart while Reggie begs Burt to stay. Sammy retreats to his room, where Reggie talks to him and says he is the most emotionally closed off from the family. Before she leaves, Sammy asks her to watch his rough cut of the Ditch Day film, and she obliges.
Sammy takes Monica to prom. With the stress of his parents’ divorce weighing on him, he tells Monica that he loves her, but she doesn’t feel the same and breaks up with him for thinking he will try and latch onto her with the divorce. Later, Sammy debuts the Ditch Day film, which features clips like Claudia being catty toward Renee, Chad being humiliated by another girl at the beach, and Logan running in a race and looking “all-American” and athletic, which earns him cheers from the crowd and a kiss from Claudia. The students cheer loudly for Sammy, but he has left to sit in the hallway. Logan confronts him and asks why Sammy made him look so good even after the way he treated him, to which Sammy said it was just right for the film. When Chad attempts to attack Sammy for how he was seen in the film, Logan punches Chad in the face and scares him off. Logan amicably departs from Sammy afterward.
Sammy returns home and talks to Mitzi. She tells him how she cannot give up on her love for Bennie and also tells him not to give up on his love for filmmaking. The two reconcile, and Sammy is able to forgive his mother.
A year later, Sammy is living with Burt in Hollywood. He has been unlucky with finding work in his desired field. At home, they receive a letter and picture from Mitzi since she and the girls moved back to Phoenix, which still upsets Burt when he sees Mitzi and Bennie looking happy in the picture. Sammy suggests dropping out of college, but Burt tells him not to, as he has come around on his opinion on his son’s passion and tells him to keep at it. They then look through the mail and find a letter for Sammy from CBS.
Sammy goes to the Paramount Pictures lot to meet with an executive for work on “Hogan’s Heroes.” After Sammy says he is more interested in films than television, the executive gets Sammy to have a brief meeting with famous filmmaker John Ford (David Lynch). Ford smokes a cigar and tells Sammy to look at two paintings and point out that one has the horizon on the bottom, and another on top. He says those two positions are where the art is most fascinating, but the horizon in the middle is “boring as shit”. With this advice, Sammy takes a stroll through the backlot with an invigorated sense in his art, and the camera briefly shifts to have the horizon be on top.
The film is a fictionalized account of Steven Spielberg's life growing up, between his relationship with his family and the growth of his love and passion for films and directing.
Sammy Fabelman develops an interest in films at a young age, and quickly becomes interested in making film. While his mother, Mitzi, family friend Bennie, and his sisters all encourage Sammy, his father Burt sees it as more of a hobby than an actual passion. As Sammy gets older, he finds that Mitzi and Bennie are having an affair, which causes him to resent them. After the family moves to California, Sammy deals with anti-Semitic bullies.
Mitzi and Burt announce their divorce to the kids since Mitzi loves Bennie more. Before the end of the year, Sammy presents a film he made for the senior class's Ditch Day at the beach, which earns him respect from his peers, including one of his bullies.
Sammy ends on good terms with both of his parents as he continues to pursue his passion. He winds up finding a job working on "Hogan's Heroes."