Each generation has a man who revolutionizes a way of thinking, a way of doing things, and, with that, we as a society evolve; for better or worse. Thomas Edison had the light bulb. Henry Ford had the assembly line. Those living in the past twenty years, had Steve Jobs (or even Bill Gates).
Steve Jobs was always seen as an eccentric man. His circular glasses and signature black turtleneck displayed a man neatly kept, but deep down, turmoil brewed. A man so popular and loved was not that great of a guy. It’s fair to say, not every inventor was a classy person. It is with this that makes Danny Boyle’s latest look at the man quite fascinating.
The film focuses on three different eras in the man’s life. The launch of the Macintosh; a hugely anticipated release that ultimately failed in the late 70’s, so much so that it even cost Apple millions and Jobs’ his…well…job. Going from there, the film went to the late 80’s, and his own personal adventure with the black box, Next, a computing machine for schools that was destined to fail (something Jobs was well aware of), and lastly, culminating in the release of the iMac in 1998.
The film, directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), does not beat around the bush regarding the man. He is, for lack of a better word, an egotistical jerk with no real care or value for others. His personal detachment to those around him causes a large abyss of pain for those who try to work with the man, including his co-workers, best friend (Steve Wozniac) and his daughter.
Jobs’ self centered way of life even allows him to rationally formulate a mathematical equation for disowning his daughter; a powerful statement in the man’s life that he ultimately owns up to. The entire situation is a double-edged sword that shows a man that cowards to responsibility, but ultimately knows it’s his to have, and one he eventually takes very seriously.
It is hard to go through Steve Jobs and not be amazed by the performances. Michael Fassbender steals every scene he is in (and he is in every single scene). Fassbender’s teethy approach to Jobs is unrelenting at times. He manages to sound so elegant, yet also barbaric. It’s hard to imagine a man as revolutionary as Jobs to be so senseless and emotionless. However, when that emotional element comes into play, Fassbender scrounges up an emotional core that feels real, especially in scenes with his daughter.
The best moments of Jobs are when Wozniak and Jobs are together. Wozniak, played all too well by Seth Rogen, is a soft-spoken, stuttering genius. While once friends with Jobs, the relationship has fractured beyond repair and is measured so on the screen. Jobs is the front man and pitch guy who, along the way, crushed Wozniak from ever having the success he himself enjoyed. Rogen displays a pain that contrasts Fassbender with perfection. The desperation from Wozniak was heart warming, due in part to his vulnerability. All he wanted was the credit that was due to him and his team.
Performances are driven from a dialogue heavy, pace driving script written by Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin, second to Tarantino, is a master of dialogue. Sorkin’s snappy writing helps balance out moments of tension and, in doing so, feels more human. No character falls into the Joss Whendon’s ‘too smart for their own good’ category. Several times, Sorkin allows dialogue heavy scenes to go on for ten to twenty minutes, and it never buckles under that. What he also applied were brief, second-long flashback sequences that managed to play into the present conversation. Its usage made the scenes feel organic.
Boyle’s direction was spot-on as well. His usage of different film types through the three decades adds authenticity that might be missed by some, but deserves appreciation nonetheless. Boyle allows the actors to play off each other; allowing scenes to run on with a few cuts and transitions. His work here feels very reminiscent of Sorkin’s The West Wing.
Steve Jobs’ real problem lies in the story layout. It focuses on the three launches of Jobs’ products and that’s it. If you want behind the scenes, you will not get that here. Sure, his daughter drama is a large focus here, but that never exits the three separate locations in focus. It would have been nice to see this creative team (Sorkin and Boyle) take a look behind the scenes instead of focus primarily on these events.
Steve Jobs is the film the man deserved. In no way does it paint the man lightly or Godlike (as he is seen by his fans). It paints him just as he is, a man, torn by his own ambitions and flaws. Somehow, through all his own turmoil, true entertainment is sparked here, thanks in part to the outstanding performance by Michael Fassbender. Sorkin’s script writing is razor-sharp and pushes the entertainment value. His work, mixed with the right directorial decisions from Danny Boyle, might very well lead to several academy award nominations.