Movie Review: Steve Jobs (2015)
by Alan F. Zundel
“Steve Jobs” the movie, like Steve Jobs the man, crackles with energy and intelligence. Finally it is the season for movies targeted above the level of the teenage market!
Aaron Sorkin (“A Few Good Men,” “The Social Network,” “The West Wing”) turns in one of his trademark hyper-lingual screenplays, based on the book “Steve Jobs” by biographer Walter Isaacson, an award-winning best-seller published just weeks after Jobs’ death.
The movie is structured like a three-act play, each act focusing on a product launch important to Jobs’ career: the Macintosh computer in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988 (both of which were commercial failures), and the iMac in 1998. As Jobs waits for his moment on stage, he argues with, harangues, and orders about various associates and family members.
Sorkin has been criticized for distorting facts and failing to capture the real Jobs’ personality, but the film works on its own terms. There is never a dull moment as it whiplashes the audience from one intense interpersonal interaction to another in a parade of character-revealing verbal volleys. Smart people sure know how to argue!
Michael Fassbender plays Jobs as a calculating, driven, perfectionistic and on rare occasions emotional man. How far this captures the real Jobs I have no idea, but he is convincing as a culturally innovative but socially toxic genius.
The role of sparring partner in chief goes to an at-first unrecognizable Kate Winslet, turning in a reliably powerful performance as Joanna Hoffman, a marketing executive in Jobs’ employ who seems to be the only one who can manage him. The stress of her position finally leads to a dramatic explosion and confrontation late in the movie which triggers the resolution of Jobs’ dramatic arc as a character.
Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Stuhlbarg all do bang-up jobs as former and current colleagues whose altercations with Jobs help reveal his back story and the complexities and flaws of his personality. Perla Haney-Jardine also delivers in a small but key role as Jobs’ teenaged daughter.
Director Danny Boyle handles the challenges of the script with admirably unobtrusive skill. Camera movements and editing keep the proceedings from getting bogged down in too much talk without detracting from the interesting things being said, and the relationships at the heart of the drama never get lost in the rapidly changing problems of each launch that the characters are supposed to be attending to.
The story is essentially that of a visionary who succeeds, fails, strategically fails, and then succeeds at business while mishandling his personal relationships. Only after scaling the mountain of his career can he look back and realize some of the damage done to the people who helped him and relied on him, and how far he has to go to salvage something of what he hadn’t realized he was missing.
As most of the scenes are set in and around public auditoriums, the film begins to feel slightly claustrophobic near the end. Then when Jobs leaves to go up on the rooftop and talk to his daughter under the open sky, the symbolism of the setting becomes apparent.