Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) has been the subject of several movies and documentaries in recent years. Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, based on the book by Walter Isaacson, isn't your typical biopic. Rather than a look through the man's life, Steve Jobs is instead a series of conversations between Jobs and the people closest to him behind-the-scenes at various product launches. Given how much has been covered about the man's career, life, and personality the film's choice skips over well-covered events such as the creation of Apple computers to focus on Jobs' continual struggle to deal with the people closest to him.

Filling in gaps with montages and dialogue, the script focuses in on the Apple Macintosh launch in 1984, the NeXT Computer launch in 1988 following Jobs' removal from Apple, and the launch of the iMac following Jobs return to Apple in 1998. Through these events we see Jobs' relationships with longtime assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and Lisa Brennan (played by Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine).

Steve Jobs is certainly an improvement over 2013's Jobs which cast Ashton Kutcher in the title role, but in the end it doesn't really impart any new information about the subject of the film. Steve Jobs was, as the movie succinctly states more than once, a real asshole. He was brilliant and tragic, but rather than examine the reasons behind his failures (in more than the most superficial ways) Sorkin and director Danny Boyle are simply content to showcase the man's strengths and flaws and allow audiences to make their own determination about whether or not Jobs was actually a good man.

The film features Sorkin's quick dialogue and constant movement while Boyle helps get the most out his actors. Fassbender has the hardest role in selling the film's prickliest character. His Steve Jobs isn't a villain, but he's certainly self-centered, egotistical, and a real son of a bitch (particularly to those closet to him). For the film to work Fassbender is forced to walk a thin line constantly berating those around him while still allowing the few human moments we see from Jobs to hit their mark. It's a delicate performance that the actor carries off masterfully.

Less interested in Jobs' place in history, or his rivalry with Microsoft (barely mentioned here), than what kind of man he was, Steve Jobs is a well-paced and fascinating way to structure a story we know so well in an entertaining and different way. Focusing almost entirely on his personal turmoil and professional failures, Steve Jobs shows us the man at his most vulnerable while still fighting for his vision of what the world could be. Unable to admit to his mistakes, Sorkin's script does redeem the man a bit in the eyes of his daughter (where the script comes dangerously close to getting schmaltzy). Much like The Social Network, Sorkin's script showcases a brilliant but flawed individual whose place in history is secured but whose personal connections were tenuous at best.

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