‘Steve Jobs’ Review

From contributing writer Stephanie Brandhuber

I, like so many others, do not go a day without handling an Apple product, whether it’s my phone or my laptop, my world has become inextricably linked to Steve Jobs’ creations. Whether you see this technological revolution as a blessing or a curse for society, it’s certainly undeniable that Steve Jobs has had a revolutionary impact on the world we live in today.

Jobs, revered by some as an almost god-like figure, certainly has a following of loyal disciples, perhaps even more so since his passing in October 2011. Despite his army of devotees however, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s latest biopic, Steve Jobs, following the Apple co-founder’s career and starring Michael Fassbender in the eponymous role, has not been met with the enthusiasm and success that may have been expected. This could potentially have to do with the fact that this new Jobs biopic has been seen by some as a sort of character assassination of the late tech-genius, the film, perceived by many as being guilty of focusing on the more negative side of the Jobs’ character rather than his professional achievements.

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Whether or not Jobs’ fans boycotted the film or not, its box-office intake was surprisingly and disappointingly low. It was hoped that this Boyle-Sorkin project would provide a more official and more highly esteemed Jobs biopic than the critically reviled Jobs (2013) starring Ashton Kutcher, but sadly, despite Steve Jobs being met by the critics’ praise, the film flopped with the general public. Perhaps not enough of a buzz was created directly preceding the film’s release, or maybe people feared another Kutcher catastrophe, but whatever the reason, it’s a real shame that this film was denied its box-office limelight as it really is a very good film.

Just like Jobs’ Apple products, this film is sleek, smooth, and ingeniously crafted. Every detail and every aspect of this film is polished and perfected. Although the film was directed by Danny Boyle, this is very much a Sorkin film, his trademark quickfire walk-and-talk dialogue taking center stage here and creating a very tangible energy and drive to the film. Unlike the Kutcher drama which spanned Jobs’ entire professional career, Steve Jobs is split into three distinct acts, the film unfolding behind the scenes at three crucial product launches during Jobs’ career, starting with the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 and ending in 1998 with the introduction of the iMac.

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In many ways, Steve Jobs may be seen as a companion piece to Sorkin’s The Social Network  (2010), both films revolving around fiercely focused and determined men who will do anything to see their technological visions succeed, even if that means alienating everyone around them. Here, in Steve Jobs, we see Jobs snubbing almost everyone with whom he shared a past, from  his former friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) to key Apple member Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), to former Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). When Apple’s more affable co-founder Steve Wozniak suggests that a computer isn’t the same thing as a painting, Jobs immediately shuts down this suggestion. Wozniak accusingly questions Jobs’ role in the Apple company, pointing out that he is neither an engineer, nor can he even write code, to which Jobs, who likens himself to a composer, replies with: “The musicians play their instruments, I play the orchestra.” 

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Perhaps most telling of his cold and ruthless nature is Jobs’ apparent contempt for  former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Watersone) with whom he has a daughter, Lisa. He shows merciless indifference for his child, however, denying for the first few years of her life that the she was even his offspring. However, as the film progresses and his computers evolve, we see Jobs’ relationship with Lisa develop, his daughter transforming before his eyes from unwanted distraction to unwilling muse.The only person who truly seems to be able to get past Jobs’ cold exterior is his Marketing Chief and personal confidente Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), who adds some necessary and much needed human warmth to a beautiful yet ultimately clinical and mechanically efficient film.

With each time-period comes a very distinct feel to the film, these decidedly different atmospheres having been hard-wired into the very texture of the film itself.  Daniel Pemberton’s meticulously crafted score transitions from 80s synth bleeps to elegant orchestral music to edgy electronica, perfectly matching the pace and feel of each act. The film’s feel is also very much affected by cinematographer Alwin  Küchler who actually changes how he films with each respective act, starting with rough 16mm stock, and then moving on to the creamy gloss of 35mm, and finishing finally with the cold, sharp resolution of digital, the face of the film transforming and evolving with each of Jobs’ creations.

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The real ingenuity and the true entertainment of this film of course stems from Sorkin’s wildly impressive script and watching the actors verbally joust at neck-breaking speed on screen. Michael Fassbender is cold, ruthless, and steely in his role as Jobs and is mesmerizing to watch when interacting with his co-stars on screen. The supercharged dialogue is really and truly the star here, relying almost completely on the skill of the brilliant cast. It’s a shame then, that the ending of the film sadly let the rest of the film down, the final fifteen minutes seeming a bit too convenient and a bit too easy for a film that was otherwise so meticulously and beautiful engineered.

Despite Steve Jobs’ disappointing box office performance, this film is undoubtedly worth seeing, if only to once again bear witness to the genius of Aaron Sorkin. Steve Jobs does not attempt to sugar-coat Jobs’ ruthless and cold personality, nor does it try to present a full picture of the tech-genius’ career. For a man who, until now, has often been perceived as being as inaccessible and impenetrable as his closed operating system, Michael Fassbender breathes life and a realness into this elusive and troubled genius.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

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(Photos copyright: Universal Pictures, Legendary Pictures)

 

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