REVIEW: Steve Jobs [2015]

Score: 10/10 | ★ ★ ★ ★


Rating: R | Runtime: 122 minutes | Release Date: October 9th, 2015 (USA)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director(s): Danny Boyle
Writer(s): Aaron Sorkin / Walter Isaacson (book)

“Computers aren’t paintings”

Despite being an Apple guy from way back playing with LOGO the turtle in grade school before eventually swapping out MacBook Pros every five years or so from college on, I never really cared who Steve Jobs was beyond the kindly looking genius in a black turtleneck. To me the appeal was ease of use—I embraced the closed system Aaron Sorkin’s script readily attributes to Jobs—and the design. How can you not love the packaging, look, and logo during the Jobs 2.0 era? It’s impeccable. Whether or not he coded anything or took credit for other’s work or was a bad father didn’t factor in the system itself. He was Apple’s face and stewarded Lee Clow’s brilliant “1984” Super Bowl ad. That’s all I cared about.

In this way I found myself loving Steve Jobs the film as a company behind the scenes more than biography of one man. Yes he’s the main subject and yes he controls most if not all the fast-paced conversations shown, but there are so many players affecting him for better or worse. Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is the lightning rod Sorkin writes around, bringing satellites into his orbit to collide or deflect minutes before history is literally made on the stage located a few feet from the action. On the nose or not, there’s no better dialogue than an analogy to an orchestra with Jobs as conductor playing his musicians. They served him, he the world. Few remember the first-chair clarinetist, but everyone knows the man with the baton.

With Walter Isaacson‘s authorized biography and hours of his own interviews as source material, Sorkin’s decision to tell this tale of redemption and rebirth through three distinct events is ingenious. He’s a master with words and the dialogue is as snappy and quick-witted as ever, but you cannot deny his expert handling of content and context to share so much about who Jobs was via a handful of characters who can’t help coming back into his line of sight. Kudos to director Danny Boyle also—a most talented afterthought filling the void left by David Fincher‘s departure once the project looked dead in studio turnaround—for letting his actors take center stage with Sorkin’s words and relegating his aesthetic choices as subtle background dressing.

The story breaks are as follows: 1984’s Macintosh release shot on 16mm with brief connective montage, 1988’s NeXTcube launch on 35mm with extended montage, and 1998’s Apple iMac on digital. Each era is a distinct advancement in image, wardrobe, hairstyle, age, emotion, and technology with the onscreen frames themselves projecting this same advancement forward. We ultimately acknowledge Jobs as a man ahead of his time with a vision he refused to compromise—to his own demise and salvation. One whose ideas the industry simply couldn’t catch up with fast enough. So he changes his tactics by deciding to wait and see rather than innovate out the gate as his singularity point approaches. His moment was always on the horizon; he just had to position himself to take it.

People are trampled upon and yet he somehow isn’t quite painted as a monster. He’s hardly likeable, but there’s a fine line between malicious and indifferent. Jobs is the latter—at least Fassbender’s version of him with Sorkin admitting none of the dialogue is 100% accurate (this is fiction not documentary). He’s so caught up in these launches that it’s hard for dormant humanity to coexist with the job itself. Ruthlessness proves a prerequisite and he rides everyone to his/her breaking point for greatness no matter his wake’s collateral damage. The character is cognizant of this too, quickly admitting the product is bigger than him. What people think of Steve Jobs the man is meaningless as long as they love what he’s built. Ego or selflessness: it works.

Sorkin was therefore the perfect choice after his deft character study of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in The Social Network. He’s a master at showing the struggle of greatness alongside its toll on one’s personal life with friends becoming enemies thanks to sacrifices made. In Jobs’ world these unfortunate souls are co-workers in partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), father figure and boss John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), electronic engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg in a scene-stealing performance), and marketing maven/conscience Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). There was obviously more to the man’s life than this quartet, but in the context of the film and the identity we embraced from watching these keynotes in real time they are everything. They hold up the mirror and brace for the punches.

Accompanying them is his audience judging and reconciling public image against volatility experienced backstage. This includes former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), daughter by law if not always Jobs’ mind/heart Lisa (Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine during each respective act), and journalist Joel Pforzheimer (John Ortiz). They are the ones with the potential to cajole a true reaction from this man too invested in the forthcoming speech and demo to give the aforementioned co-workers anything but gruff impatience. Jobs is too bull-headed to admit he’s wrong unless he himself is the one proving it, so he pushes those he can’t control away by berating and marginalizing them to win over those he can. It’s an invigorating master class of power’s corruption and business trumping life.

I was literally on the edge of my seat basking in the glory of this man’s hubris, amazed at how right he was despite an attitude making everyone around him hope he wasn’t. We can imagine that away from this setting he’s not a half bad guy—how else could Wozniak have ever embraced his kinship? We see it through flashbacks with Sculley and Woz, but something about knowing it’s going to be his face blowing the world’s mind leaves no room for anyone but himself onstage. That attitude brought us amazing products and while we can sympathize with those who endured his wrath, perhaps their pain was worth it. Asshole or not, Steve Jobs the icon is judged on his successes. The tumultuous journey is merely footnote.


photography:
[1] MICHAEL FASSBENDER portrays the pioneering founder of Apple in “Steve Jobs”, directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin. Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches spanning Jobs’ career—beginning with the Macintosh in 1984, and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998—the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter. Photo Credit: François Duhamel Copyright: © 2015 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[2] SETH ROGEN as Steve Wozniak (SETH ROGEN) in “Steve Jobs”, directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin. Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches spanning Jobs’ career—beginning with the Macintosh in 1984, and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998—the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter. Photo Credit: Universal Pictures Copyright: © 2015 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
[3] Chrisann Brennan (KATHERINE WATERSTON) with daughter Lisa Brennan (MAKENZIE MOSS) in “Steve Jobs”, directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin. Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches spanning Jobs’ career—beginning with the Macintosh in 1984, and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998—the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter. Photo Credit: François Duhamel Copyright: © 2015 Universal Studios. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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