D: Danny Boyle. DP: Alwin H. Küchler. W: Aaron Sorkin. Starring: Michael Fassbender/Kate Winslet/Seth Rogen/Jeff Daniels/Michael Stuhlbarg/Katherine Waterston/Sarah Snook/John Oritz. (NOTE: Based on Walter Isaacson’s book ‘Steve Jobs’)
Forgive me for never making time for the Ashton Kutcher staring 2013 film, Jobs. Now with this newer, fancier, somewhat biopic film, Steve Jobs, I am curious about how bad the other might be. Or if they manage a different side of this character study entirely. I shall make a date with netflix to discover.
Cut into three different chapters based around different product launches in 1984, 1988, and 1998 Aaron Sorkin’s script is precise. Sorkin is the famed creator of the TV series The West Wing as well as an Oscar winner for his screenplay of The Social Network. The Sorkin pace and quick dialogue is on the nose tonally with this characterization of the non-emotional asshole and eventual CEO of Apple. Everything we learn is in the dialogue despite this film being about the selling of home computing and Jobs’ own obsession with the look of his products.
Michael Fassbender whose slimmed down considerably since Macbeth is fraught and scheming here, but cannot abandon his looks for the character entirely. His Jobs is a bit Howard Hughes for me. The main emotional arc of the story is centered on his relationship with his daughter Lisa whom he vehemently denies is not his for most of the film. This strained relationship is the backboard for Sorkin to explore Jobs’ history, which is dolled out, as I said, only in dialogue. A refreshing device, leaning the film away from biopic tendencies, but nevertheless does not provide clarity to anything.
One of the weirdest aspects of the film is Kate Winslet. She gives a good performance as Joanna Hoffman, being the emotional compass for Jobs’ stunted antics. However, after the first chapter of the film she suddenly acquires an Eastern European accent. It is frankly jarring and nothing in the film can really explain it. I spent the majority of the 1988 section confused and pitching myself as if I must have been asleep before to have missed this accent. Trust me, I was not. Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg give solid supporting performances and are great screen partners for Fassbender.
Ultimately, director Danny Boyle is not able to entrance you. Steve Jobs runs too long especially as it is the same crop of characters who just reemerge at different launches. We see very little of the creative process behind any of the products so there is little satisfaction in what reveal we do see. As Jobs hardly changes throughout the film Boyle’s focus of the camera on his face merely acts to remind us that this character is not on a journey, even if he has softer moments. The discussion of the closed versus open systems of the computers is probably the most fascinating technical element explained, why apple products are they way they are. But this is lost in a film obsessed with one man’s compass and not the ship’s voyage.