- Movie Rating -

Steve Jobs (2015)

| December 14, 2015

There was a time when, upon leaving the house, I never walked out without my wallet and my keys. After the revolution of Steve Jobs, it grew to include my iPod which contains not only my music but also podcasts, lectures, documentaries and anything else that makes the drollery of my drive to work into an intellectual awakening. Yes, Jobs changed the world, and personally changed my world – and, admit it, he personally changed your world too. He wanted to free our computers from the confines of the wall socket, and make them smaller, faster and portable. Far from the paranoia of the HAL 9000, he wanted to make the future an inviting and warm place technologically, to push the future forward and make us see our portable devices as a friend. He understood what it took to make us happy. He was the master of supply and demand, supplying a demand for a product that we didn’t even know that we wanted yet.

Ever since he passed away four years ago, biographers have been trying to pin down this man who bore the appearance of a wise, friendly showman on stage, a man whose innovations and beautiful mind put him in the same ranks as Edison, Tesla, Bell, Da Vinci, and The Wright Brothers. Yet, like Edison, he had a cold and bitter manner. It was said that he could be officious, dismissive and even cruel. That’s the image that biographers are trying to wrap their heads around, the man who wanted the public to see their devices as a friend had few warm human interactions with those in his inner circle.

Danny Boyle’s bio-pic Steve Jobs probably comes as close as anyone is likely to get with a storytelling narrative to who Jobs was personally. If you want a story closer to the bone, watch the documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine from earlier this year. It intended to break apart Jobs’ cult of personality and find out what made him tick. Steve Jobs does the same thing, and maybe has a much more cold-blooded vantage point. It was tempting to want to soften his image, to give Jobs a reverent quality of a genius who simply out-guessed and out-thought those around him. Yet, while Danny Boyle’s biopic does what it can to celebrate his genius, it never shies away from making him look like a schmuck, which if you believe his underlings, it not that far from the truth (I can believe it since Wozniak was a consultant on the movie).

That’s the key to the movie. It never backs away from the cold, bitterness of Steve Jobs. As played in a wonderful performance Michael Fassbender, we are introduced to a man who is driven beyond all reason to make a product that will change the world, but it is not without cost. He’s cold and mean to those around him. He argues every minute detail – the movie opens as he is berating his chief architect Andy Herzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) to get Mac to say “Hello” five minutes before it is due to be unveiled. Meanwhile backstage he denies the parentage of his 8 year-old daughter Lisa whom he doesn’t even acknowledge until he sees her working on Mac Paint. She’s a prodigy, much like her old man. Lisa is played in three wonderful performances by three different actresses who imbue Lisa with a kind of wise-beyond-her-years intelligence. Who wouldn’t want a daughter like this?

Jobs’ prickly relationship with Lisa extends to all around him. Aaron Sorkin’s script is wall-to-wall with words as Jobs tries to push his vision forward at the expense of personal relationships. In board rooms, in hallways, in stairwells, he gets into it with colleagues, with is long-suffering marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet); former Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels); and most importantly his best friend Steve Wozniak, played in a surprisingly touching performance by Seth Rogan.

The wordiness of the script is off-set by Danny Boyle’s visual style. We find ourselves in a heated conversation between Jobs and his collaborators that take place in the present but the movie will suddenly cut back to an earlier conversation from a few years before so that what was said then builds the suspense and surprise of what is said now. It makes the wordy script more than just conversation; it turns it into an exciting narrative. Boyle also makes the effort to make the three different eras – 1984, 1988 and 1998 – all look different by shooting first in 16mm then in 35mm and then in digital so that we mentally know which time period we’re in.

But all the filmmaking skill doesn’t override the human element. Jobs is an extremely difficult man to warm up to. Watching his interactions with those around him we are challenged to wonder if he was a misunderstood genius or an egotistical narcissist who took more interest in computer chips than human relations. Michael Fassbender is really the reason to see this movie. He’s wonderful actor who is best at playing complicated and often distant men – everyone from the slave owner in 12 Years a Slave to the sex addict in Shame, to the god-like Magneto in the X-Men prequels. We are challenged with how we feel about Steve Jobs, here. We can’t possibly like how he treats his colleagues or his daughter, but we feel for him because he understands the he is a flawed man. He admits to Lisa that he is a damaged product, seeing himself as an operating system that he himself can’t fix. The fact that he recognized that flaw may have been his best innovation.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Drama