Steve Jobs, 2015
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlberg and Jeff Daniels
Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter.
“It looks like Judy Jetson’s toaster oven” barks Steve Jobs’ daughter just before the record-breaking and technology-defining iMac is about to be unveiled for the first time. Inside the auditorium, feet bang violently against the carpeted-floors, hands smashing together as a crescendo of excitement and anticipation envelopes those expectant onlookers. It’s like a rock concert at the launch, all onlookers waiting to see the genius take to the stage and unleash his latest magnum opus.
And it’s in the magnum opus (well, three of them – opus’/operi?) that Danny Boyle’s kinetic and bold look at the life and times of Steve Jobs takes its cues: rather than telling a more customary tale of a genius creator as he thrives for his vision through various points in his childhood and adulthood, Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin’s story hones on three colossal launches in the computer whiz’s life, that of The Macintosh, the black-cubed NeXT and the game-changing iMac. As he prepares for the huddled masses that await him, we have front-row seats behind-the-scenes as Jobs wrestles with the expectations of the adoring fans and his relationships with his closest allies, such as his confidant Joanne Hoffman (Winslet), Apple developer and engineer Steve Wozniak (Rogen), Apple CEO John Scully (Daniels) and his estranged ex-partner Chrisann Brennan (Waterston) and daughter Lisa.
With Sorkin, ever the boundless word-smith behind the script, Steve Jobs is another acute, slick piece of work from the acclaimed writer. The play-like narrative works wonders in its immediacy: its smart, wordy structure moves at such a pace that you hope the shoe department got a nice bonus. But it gives us such a compelling narrative and such access into the man and his historic feats that perhaps wouldn’t have had the same power, a la the ill-fated Ashton Kutcher effort, Jobs.
That said, Sorkin doesn’t skim over the darker undertones of the flawed genius, who despite his obvious want to do right by those who surround him, it is he who is the master of the Kingdom the one who plays the orchestra, not the instruments that play the tune, and should be treated as such. But its that narcissism and megalomania that makes those around him so enamoured with him, unable to pull away from his lore, despite his spiteful ways, epitomised to perfection by Winslet’s Joanne pouring her heart out to him in the third act without so much as a flinch from Jobs.
Coupled with Boyle’s furious but controlled direction, the film transports you into every situation as if you are there, peaking quietly over Jobs’ shoulder as he moves from room to room, exchange to exchange, computer to computer. The hectic, feverish feel, aided by cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler and editor Elliot Graham, may be a little jarring for some, but its buoyancy and zest bring the world of circuit boards, USB’s and floppy disks to dynamic life.
Fassbender, who many have said could be fighting himself amongst the Oscar race after his performance in the superb Macbeth, may just edge it with his performance here: composed, cool and effortlessly absorbing the Irishman’s latest bravura performance maybe his best yet. Winslet too is magnificent throughout as Hoffman, a cool, composed head amongst the whirlwinds, while Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston and Jeff Daniels add superlative support, with Rogen in particular shining as Wozniak.
Steve Jobs is a supremely entertaining biopic that beautifully delves into the flawed genius of its protagonist. While some may be put off by the dialogue-heavy of Sorkin’s prose and Boyle’s somewhat jarring direction, the pay-off is hugely rewarding, not least for the twin performances of Fassbender and Winslet. Sharp and insightful, as well as warm, playful and inviting. Say hello.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Scott Davis is Senior Staff Writer at Flickering Myth and co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast.