Spielberg is an ordinary documentary about an extraordinary subject. Directed by Susan Lacy, the HBO doc goes through the necessary beats and paces of Spielberg’s life, from his creative childhood to his days as Hollywood’s young director du jour to the inevitable powerhouse of the entertainment industry he is today. There’s famous faces who share interesting anecdotes and a treasure trove of archival, grainy footage of Spielberg in his younger years. But, it all adds up to nothing more than what we already knew: Steven Spielberg is a guy who really likes movies.
The movie is more of Spielberg talking about his life than an actual look into his life. The only current scenes we get of him doing his director thing are when he’s on the set of Bridge of Spies. Instead of hearing about his childhood home or his expansive family or starting DreamWorks, it’d be more interesting to see him actually interacting with these people and going to these places, instead of Spielberg just switching between two or three different outfits, sitting in a chair and talking about his life.
To be fair, any chapter of Spielberg’s life could be a biography in itself. His years as a TV director are fascinating and rich enough to even be its own miniseries. Even focusing on just one of his films, like Jaws, E.T. or Schindler’s List, would be ripe for interesting tales and touching, heartfelt anecdotes. You can’t compress all of this extraordinary life into a two-hour doc without missing something.
Still, it feels like this movie feel short, like an imitation of a Spielberg movie that just doesn’t have that unique, Spielberg spark. In the movie, they talk about how film critic Pauline Kael said that there wasn’t much or anything at all under the surface in Spielberg’s film “The Sugarland Express.” That statement could also apply to this doc: an entertaining look at Hollywood’s most successful filmmaker that doesn’t dig as far deep as it could.