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Steve Jobs is not the movie many are expecting, and it stands to reason that this will disappoint a fair few people. Aaron Sorkin takes a different approach to telling the story of Apple’s larger than life co-founder than he did back in 2010 when bring Facebook’s creation to the big screen. Instead of unfolding like a traditional biopic the film is more like a three act stage production, each chapter taking place on the evening of a product launch that Jobs had a major hand in. It’s initially slightly disappointing but once you embrace Sorkin’s unconventional approach the subtle nuances of the narrative start to reveal themselves.
That’s not to say the whole film taking place across three nights over the span of fourteen years doesn’t have its share of downsides. Many of the major events in Apple’s history are simply glossed over or haphazardly relayed to the audience in the form of time passing montages. Flashbacks are used to show some of the biggest events such as Steve Jobs’ initial ousting from the company he helped create and the creation of said company (or at least part of its creation) but the technique is used sparingly and there can be no denying that it does feel a little jarring for some landmark events to be merely referenced by characters rather than explicitly shown to the audience.
Ultimately the clue is in the title, the film is after all called Steve Jobs not Apple, Sorkin places the focus squarely on the man, in fact more screen time is dedicated to his relationship with his daughter than his hand in one of the most influential companies of the last thirty years. With such a tight focus on Jobs the whole movie rests on Michael Fassbender’s shoulders, a weight he is more than up to the task of holding. Fassbender is a revelation, portraying Jobs as a deeply flawed but still hugely respected man, it is incredible how easily the actor gets the audience eating out of his palm regardless of how difficult Jobs can with his staff and few friends.
Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo and Makenzie Moss share the role of Lisa, the daughter that Jobs refuses to admit is his (the test said there was only a 94% chance he was the father after all). Their relationship is a fractured one, made all the more worse by Jobs’ destructive streak. There is however a surprising amount of heart to their interactions, the suitable pay off towards the end of the film results in this aspect being easily the film’s most satisfying.
Steve Jobs is very much an actor’s film and, even though nobody else comes close to measuring up to Fassbender, the supporting cast is nevertheless excellent. Kate Winslet’s Joanna Hoffman is one of Steve’s true friends and the only person that can reign him in, Winslet plays the role with an understated gentle authority. Seth Rogan attempts to go all Jonah Hill with reasonable success, he’s rather underwhelming for the first two acts but he’s given a chance to shine in the third and he grabs it with both hands. Even Jeff Daniels, who is having somewhat of a banner year between Steve Jobs and The Martian, is great! Director Danny Boyle does a fine job in getting the most of his largely very talented cast.
Speaking of the British director Boyle keeps the whole film as slick as the interface on an iPhone. There’s some masterful editing, particularly in the transitions between the three different time periods which are bright and stylistic to the extreme. The stage production analogy really is very apt, as Boyle keeps the whole thing very contained and low key focusing the film around the characters above all else.
So given the film’s undeniable quality it’s disappointing to see that across the pond the film has been struggling to pull in the box office figures expected of it, much like the first Macintosh it’s failing to reach industry projections. Director Danny Boyle has expressed disappointment and stated “I think it’s probably that we released it too wide too soon” as an explanation but perhaps it’s simply that Steve Jobs fatigue has set in. With a bestselling book and the Aston Kutcher lead jOBS (which, for the record, is infinitely inferior to “Steve Jobs”) having already been released in the last couple of years there’s definitely been an overload of media about the late Apple co-founder.
If you’re looking for a film that tells the story of how Steve Jobs was fired from his own company, and then triumphantly returned to save the business from near bankrupts, then Steve Jobs probably isn’t for you. What you’ll find instead is a laser sharp film about a deeply flawed genius that is more than a little bit slick, even if it can be accused of being a tad lacking under the hood, it’s the cinematic equivalent of an Apple product.