“Steve Jobs” Movie Review


        Whether or not director Danny Boyle’s biopic “Steve Jobs” makes an overall emotional connection with mainstream audiences will depend greatly on their craving to learn and understand the fine details and personality traits of the man responsible for the revolutionizing devices each of us carry in our pockets everyday.  Regardless of one’s feelings on this matter, I would contend “Steve Jobs” will someday soon be a film studied and used as a shining example of how to effectively create a compelling and riveting character study.  Put simply, the filmmakers have submitted a highly polished creation in which nearly every portion of the creative process features an artist at the top of their respective games.  So much so that Steve Jobs himself would have likely nodded in gracious approval.  This isn’t to say Jobs is portrayed as a flawless and successful leader of what would eventually become the most valuable company in the world.  Quite the opposite really.  

     In yet another solid book adaptation, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has chosen three important events from Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs and has created a highly effective and original narrative format that succeeds in telling a cohesive story even though the events depicted take place years apart.  It’s not a surprise to see Sorkin excel here, considering his adapted screenplay for “The Social Network” won an Oscar and he remains responsible for a number of other critical darlings including “Moneyball” and “A Few Good Men”.  In the hands of a capable and visionary director like Danny Boyle, who won an Oscar himself for “Slumdog Millionaire”, you begin to see how the important pieces came together nicely even though several other high profile directors, including David Fincher, passed on the project.  Of course casting the key roles in the film share an equal importance to those behind the camera.  

     Casting the lead role of Jobs proved as difficult as finding a director.  Several actors, including Christian Bale, turned down the role after being briefly attached, but as we know in life, things happen for a reason.  As Steve Jobs, Michael Fassbender doesn’t necessarily have any likeness to the late Apple CEO, but as the film progresses, you quickly realize it doesn’t matter as Fassbender’s performance becomes intoxicating.  He skillfully lures the audience into the role and doesn’t let go for two hours.  His performance may end up being the best of the year, as it will prove difficult in my mind to surpass. That also goes for the three main supporting roles in which Kate Winslet plays Apple’s director of marketing, Joanna Hoffman; Seth Rogan plays Apple hardware engineer, Steve Wozniak; and Jeff Daniels plays the former Apple CEO, John Sculley.  Thanks to a combination of a number of potent scenes written by Sorkin and some incredible acting by these three opposite Fassbender, each rises to a significant level of importance, allowing all of them to chew up scenery with every opportunity.  I can’t express enough how refreshing it is to see a film where no glaring weakness exists neither in front of or behind the camera.  As Jobs alludes to midway through the film, it’s like all of the components of a symphony orchestra coming to together at just the right moment, creating something truly poetic.

     Every scene is so expertly crafted by the filmmakers that a realistic documentary vibe is created.  It’s as if a camera was allowed to follow the events preceding the product launches depicted in the film, giving the viewer a front row insider look into what a man of Jobs incredible stature dealt with in the moments before each launch. Sorkin chooses to break the film up into three distinct acts with each highlighting several important and dramatic moments that happened just prior to three groundbreaking product launches during Jobs career, the launches of the Macintosh computer (1984), the NEXT Cube (1988), and the iMac (1998).  Save to say, history continually repeats itself as the issues Jobs is forced to deal with at a time where having these discussions would appear highly inconvenient seem to continually creep up just as he is about to go on stage.  

     Of course they are all unresolved issues that are to blame on his unwillingness to admit wrong and face the consequences of his abrasive style of leadership.  But this is a guy who clearly has a vision for the company.  A leader who refuses to rest on past laurels, instead choosing steadfastly to put every employees efforts on what they are working on currently and more importantly, what they are developing for tomorrow.  We watch as Jobs faces the constant reminder of the fact he is the father of a little girl, Lisa Brennan, as the mother, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) shows up backstage in the prior moments of the first two events arguing over paternity and the fact he is worth millions, yet his daughter lives on welfare.  These are harsh realities Jobs must face and you wonder while watching all of this unfold why he refuses to accept Lisa as his child and do what’s right for her and Chrisann.  Why does he constantly fail to legitimize the substantial contributions of Steve Wozniak and the team that created the Apple II?  Why doesn’t he listen to Joanna Hoffman’s counseling that proves over and over again to be in his best interests?  

     If I could offer any criticism of “Steve Jobs”, it would be the fact Sorkin and Boyle completely gloss over the product launches themselves.  In other words, we never actually see Jobs triumph in a positive moment during the film.  Perhaps this decision was made in order to avoid redundancy since the filmmakers obviously know the audience likely watched these very product launches and are certain at minimum to have an iPhone in their pockets.  As an American culture, we know what Jobs accomplished.  I think Sorkin and Boyle set out to show us just how difficult these milestones were to achieve when viewed through a lens that  allows us behind the scenes, as we come to realize Steve Jobs had all of the same problems many of us deal with on a daily basis.  And like most people, he succeeded in several areas, but failed in others.  GRADE: A