Adler was an artist herself, having studied at Cincinatti’s Conservatory of Music, which put her on the path to becoming a concert pianist. During a 1992 interview with “60 Minutes,” Adler said she didn’t know her son would become the filmmaking giant he was today, but as an artist herself, she still recognized his imagination just aching to burst out. Sometimes Adler would feel so in tune with young Spielberg’s drive to make movies, that she would happily forge sick notes for him:
“He wanted to do something hair-brained like go out in the desert and make a movie … I drove an Army Jeep. We lived in Arizona, and I had a Pith helmet, and a fatigue outfit, and he’d say let’s go, and I’d keep him home from school. I used to lie. I wrote marvelous notes. I’m very creative. I could always think up a new ailment to keep my kid home from school.”
In “The Fabelmans,” she’s embodied by Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a flawed maternal figure who, on the surface, appears to have the perfect life. Much like Adler, she’s a generous free spirit who constantly sees the beauty of the world around her. But akin to Sammy’s love for filmmaking, she’s harboring a collection of complicated emotions that quietly haunts her. In the film’s most heartbreaking scene, the artistic bond between mother and son comes to a head as a revelation is captured by the objectivity of the camera she encouraged him to explore with.
Every clip I’ve seen of Adler goes to show how much Michelle Williams nailed her performance. As a tribute, “The Fabelmans” speaks for itself, but you don’t have to look too far to see how much of an impact Adler had on him.