Steve Jobs (****)
Running Time: 122 min
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogan, Michael Stuhlbarg and Katherine Waterson.
(Movie House Cinemas, Dublin Road, Press Screening, 09/11/2015)
DANNY Boyle’s latest feature might be written by The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin, but it’s got a very different feel to David Fincher’s movie. With its three-act structure and fantastic dialogue, it might be more at home on the West End or Broadway rather than on the big-screen. It isn’t an outright bio-pic about the life of Steve Jobs; but more so a complex character driven drama that attempts to get under the skin of Apple’s late CEO and see what made him tick.
Focusing on three key product launches throughout Jobs’ often turbulent career; firstly the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988 and finally the iMac in 1998. Each time-period is shot differently, giving them their own unique look and feel. The Macintosh launch is shot on grainy 16mm, the events of 1988 on 35mm and finally the iMac launch was filmed digitally.
As you’d expect Boyle brings his trademark flair and energy to the project, whether it’s little moments like the lyrics to a Bob Dylan’s track appearing onscreen, or the visuals of the Skylab launch popping up while they’re being discussed; it’s a wonderfully stylish feature that’s shot and edited to near perfection; but for all its slick presentation this film works best when Boyle just takes a step back and allows his actors space to just perform.
Fassbender is fantastic in the film’s central role, whilst he doesn’t share any real physical similarities to Jobs; he dons the iconic turtleneck and embraces his inner-bastard with real relish. He chews the scenery throughout the movie, portraying Apple’s late CEO as a highly driven, but anti-social individual, who flips from charismatic to menacing within the blink of an eye. He’s not a programmer, engineer or even a designer; but someone who wholeheartedly believes in his own ability to innovate and inspire. As he proudly states to his friend and colleague Steve Wozniak: “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra!”
The Irish actor is joined by an impressive ensemble cast that includes Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg. Winslet in particular is fantastic as Job’s long-suffering ‘work-wife’; marketing executive Joanna Hoffman. There’s a hint of the relationship that exists between Alan Partridge and Lynn Benfield about the duo, Joanna clearly loves the man, but finds herself repeatedly left exasperated by his behaviour towards others. She’s the only person who really sees the good in him, acting as his moral compass to make sure he does the right thing; particularly where his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and daughter are concerned.
But for me it’s the scenes between Fassbender and Daniels that provide the film’s standout moments. Daniels plays John Sculley; the former president of Pepsi turned Apple chief executive, someone who in Sorkin’s eyes became a pseudo-father figure to Jobs; despite their often fiery relationship. Boyle described the film as an ‘action movie with words’ and at times the prickly interchanges between these two acting heavyweights is as tense as any action set-piece. Sorkin’s screenplay gives the duo the ammunition they need as they go toe to toe with each other, spurting out dialogue at a wonderfully frantic rate.
Viewers expecting a straightforward bio-pic about the man will probably be left deeply disappointed by this film. It’s a very different kind of movie to Joshua Michael Stern’s 2013 feature. It doesn’t feel the need to explore the man’s entire life-story, nor does it get bogged down with too much technical mumbo jumbo about Apple’s computer products; Sorkin is clearly more interested in trying to see what made the man tick.
He worked closely with Jobs lifelong friend Steve Wozniak and author Walter Isaacson, who wrote the biography which the film is loosely based on, when writing the screenplay; but he’s freely admitted most of the film’s dialogue is largely the work of fiction. It’s clearly not a film about Steve Jobs, but more so a feature which tries to explore the complicated mind of someone the writer clearly believes was a genius and pioneer.
It paints the picture of someone who might’ve been ‘poorly made’, but nevertheless was the master of creating computer products people wanted and desired. He clearly had huge flaws within his character, primarily caused by his adoption as a child, which left him complex paternal issues and an unrelenting desire to succeed. Jobs had a well-documented ruthless streak and it’s captured perfectly here throughout the movie.
As Shelter from the Storm blares out over the closing credits, the film gives Jobs his moment of triumph. Some viewers might feel this lets him off the hook for his horrendous behaviour towards his friends, family and colleagues throughout the movie; but I don’t think that’s really the case. Just like his work on The Social Network, Sorkin’s screenplay portrays its leading man in a somewhat unflattering manner, it respects him and his many achievements; but it doesn’t necessarily like him.
Steve Jobs mightn’t be for everyone, it’s not The Social Network 2.0, but I think it’s all the better because of it. For all its visual flair and fantastic soundtrack (I LOVED Daniel Pemberton’s score for the movie), what I loved most about this film was Sorkin’s screenplay; because it gives great actors an opportunity to really showcase their talent. Whilst Boyle’s film hasn’t been overly successful at either the UK or US box-office, I firmly believe it will feature heavily come awards season; where I hope it gains the recognition it so sorely deserves.