Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs movie poster

Release: Friday, October 23, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Aaron Sorkin

Directed by: Danny Boyle

The poor return on investment regarding Danny Boyle’s take on the iGenius is quite surprising considering the quality of the product. As of this posting, Steve Jobs has just barely recouped half of its original $30 million budget, suggesting that perhaps the third time is not the charm. (Steve Jobs follows on the heels of Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, and arrives two years after Ashton Kutcher donned the glasses and black turtleneck in Jobs.)

Seems many are already thinking differently and choosing not to sit through yet another episode. It’s unfortunate because Michael Fassbender’s transformative performance, along with another scintillating Aaron Sorkin screenplay, one based partly on interviews he conducted and the Walter Isaacson biography of the same name, all but epitomize compelling cinema. Steve Jobs, the man, with all his idiosyncrasies and flare for making dramatic last-second requests of his thoroughly overburdened staff, is almost too good to be true.

Steve Jobs grants audiences backstage passes to three significant product launches, exposing them to the environmental, political and psychological conditions that, at least in the framework of the film, lend greater weight to the public unveilings. While the three-act construction has invited criticism over the fact it’s programmed to repeat itself — the story features the launch of the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT Computer in 1988 (the result of Jobs’ brief departure from Apple in the wake of the failed Macintosh), and finally the iMac a decade later — there is beauty in simplicity.

The cyclical pattern yields an unexpected irony. The film boots up on a dramatic but effective note. Lack of exposure to Jobs’ abrasive personality is a great possibility for viewers not well-versed in their Apple history but in the span of a ten-minute scene wherein he insists he doesn’t have a daughter nor any financial responsibility to former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the cards are laid out for all to see. Alas, the curse of being gifted. The irony? Simply how applicable that old adage is: ignorance really is bliss. Are we better off knowing the jerk or just the icon? Alas, the curse of being better-informed.

Meanwhile a crowd buzzing with excitement begins stomping their feet in the auditorium in preparation for the revolution. Backstage, its creator is at war with personnel and with himself. In this particular setting technical issues arise when a failed voice demo, wherein the Mac is intended to greet the world with a friendly ‘Hello,’ sends Jobs into overdrive, prompting him to bring the heat down on engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Like it or not, we’re going to become privy to more of Jobs’ brutal demands as the clock ticks away. Boyle makes sure to cut away just before Jobs steps out on stage — his instincts telling him the presentations themselves aren’t as interesting as the drama of Jobs’ crippling social awkwardness. Watch Jobs clash ideologically with former CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels, absolutely brilliant) as he attempts to make clear his vitality to a floundering company. His conversations with cofounder and closest ‘friend’ Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen, masterfully restraining himself) serve as some of the harshest truths as Jobs argues Woz and the rest of the team behind the Apple II — widely considered a failed product — deserve no credit for what they did years earlier.

Then of course there’s the motif of Jobs’ on-again, off-again flirtation with assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, and you guessed it, she’s also excellent). Hoffman remains by his side throughout, trying her best to manage expectations — good luck — and manage Jobs’ near-tyrannical approach to seizing control of the company he had created.

Where the repetition begins to truly bear fruit is the frequent reemergence of key characters in Sculley, whose relationship with Jobs throughout the film is fraught with tension, and a now matured Lisa Brennan (Perla Haney-Jardine), who Jobs has finally recognized as his own. Jobs eventually makes amends with the former CEO prior to the introduction of the iMac but Hoffman reminds him that his withholding of Lisa’s college tuition has embittered her profoundly.

The design was certainly a gamble. But repetition, as it applies to many things in reality, provides opportunities to improve and advance. Evaluate and reinvent. That’s precisely what happens in this taut and disciplined story, an emotional crescendo resultant from our third-party witness to his brutally honest interactions with a core group of individuals. It’s absurd to think of Fassbender as an insufficient box office draw — though I won’t deny names like Leo and Christian Bale would have upped the numbers — as the Irish actor has proven lately the depths of his emotive abilities as well as his tendency to play cruel characters. Leo’s too big and if you think Fassbender doesn’t look the part, how could Bale ever hope to succeed?

All of this isn’t to say the film is flawless. It’s not quite the product we’d presume its subject would like it to be. Boyle simply can’t resist the urge to tie the narrative up in a white little bow at the end, using the top level of a metropolitan parking garage as a setting to downplay the gravity of Jobs’ ultimate apology. An apology that couldn’t have come at a more awkward and unlikely time. It’s something close to heartwarming to watch unfold, yet for everything the film has done to prove why his Machiavellian mentality puts him in a category all his own, this is a betrayal.

Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet in 'Steve Jobs'

Recommendation: Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is, in my mind, a serious Oscar contender. Richly dialogue-driven drama features few scenes where there isn’t someone going on a verbal tirade either on the offense or in defense of themselves and their reputations. Talky pictures aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but if they are yours, you won’t find many films this year that create such an intense atmosphere and a generally dramatic picture than Steve Jobs. I don’t think I care much for the guy but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this examination of him.

Rated: R

Running Time: 122 mins.

Quoted: “We will know soon enough if you are Leonardo da Vinci or just think you are.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.cultofmac.com; http://www.imdb.com

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33 thoughts on “Steve Jobs

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  3. Cant wait to see this! Unfortunately i’ll have to wait till next year before it releases in my neck of the woods happy to wait. Haha
    And great review, man. You can’t ask for a better cast than this one and Sorkin is such a master of dialogue.

    • Cast is great, script is great, I don’t give a damn about the fact the guy doesn’t bare much resemblance to Jobs or the fact there are a lot of quote-unquote factual inaccuracies here. I enjoyed this for what it was. I hope you enjoy yourself when you see it. I’m thinking the wait will be worth it, especially if you’re a fan of great writing. Sorkin’s in fine form here

      • I am. And I am a fan of Sorkin in general, barring The Newsroom, which was much more of a political mouthpiece for him than anything else, I’ve enjoyed almost everything written by him, so yeah looking forward to this

    • It’s a hell of a script. It’s really dialogue intensive, and on that ground alone I had to give it a near-perfect score. Holy crap, this movie gets intense. I’ve been reading in the aftermath how it’s “not a Steve Jobs movie” blah blah blah, But I’m not listening to that so much. This product is damn sound. I loved it. 😀

    • Your guess is as good as mine! I think as time goes on Steve Jobs the name would become a little less relevant. For lack of a better word. He’ll always be relevant, but in the time since he’s passed we’ve already seen the emergence of other brilliant minds and ideas so I’d venture a guess that within the next decade we’ll have multiple Steve Jobs-type people. If we don’t already. Maybe they won’t be quite as influential as he was but there’ll be a lot of followers in his footsteps.

  4. It’s really sad that this movie flopped in a wide release, after doing exceptionally in a limited release. I’ve been dying to see it, but no theater near me has played it for a whole two weeks!

    • Thanks for commenting man. Yeah the business this has done is quite surprising to me. I know it’s movie #3 about Steve Jobs in about as many years but still. This by far (of the two I’ve seen anyway, haven’t seen Man in the Machine doc) the best take on him. If it becomes available to you, def give it a whirl. See what you think.

    • Let’s hope so man! I heard the other day it has been pulled from 2,000 theaters and that doesn’t help it out at all. It’s ok though, those who have seen it hopefully were impressed by it. Fassbender and Daniels are excellent!

        • ANyone’s guess as to whether it’ll be re-released. In fact I forgot movies sometimes do that to get an extra push at the box office. I’d hope this would be one of them. The business it’s done so far is woeful. Apparently the Ashton Kutcher version has made more money than this one, and that just pisses me off

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  6. Top work Tom. I’m quite surprised America hasn’t taken to this in box office terms, especially given the level of talent on display. I hope — though I’m not entirely confident — that it’ll do a bit better elsewhere. Looking forward to seeing it!

    • Hey what’s up Adam! This is a shame really it is. I blame the fact we have had 3 such films in the last 2 years, 2 going on 3 I guess. I don’t blame people for not remaining invested in a guy who by all accounts has been branded a bit of a jerk in the media before. And if you’re not swept up in the Apple craze there’s prob even less for you to get into with these things. I however am a big fan of Danny Boyle and several of the actors so for me it was a win-win. Hope to read your take on it soon

    • You should really take to it Mark, it is a superbly written bit of human drama and a wonderfully unflattering portrait of a contemporary icon. Really dug it.

  7. Interesting…I’m really surprised that this has done so badly. It’s out here next weekend and I’ll definitely try and see it. I guess a biopic of a business leader isn’t of much interest to people these days…there’s too much demand for spectacle and action, even if the world is in love with Apple. Sorkin, Fassbender, Winslet…it’s a no-brainer for me.

    • The business this one has done is a flat-out shock to me. I get that it is technically the third visitation of this man after 2013’s Jobs and this year’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine docu but still. There are so many factors that make this one stand-out from the lot, though I will admit to not having seen Machine at this point. I’d like to. You listed all the reasons I really enjoyed this piece. Such a great script. Fantastic performances. Really really good stuff.

      • I’ll try and see it this weekend. I haven’t seen either of the documentaries and honestly don’t know all that much about the guy’s life, so I’m going into it blind, even though I’ll have to bear in mind it’s fictional.

  8. The posting of your reviewcomes just as a story about the movie being pulled from over 2,000 theaters goes public. It’s a flop. I think it did even worse than the Ashton Kutcher version. Just goes to show that critical acclaim cannot make the public watch a movie they don’t want to see. I liked it ok, but it’s an odd little film.

        • Yeah anger isn’t the right response but its kind of annoying. Can’t believe Fassbender is still unable to draw more attention, he’s a fantastic performer and this one’s proof of it. 🙂

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