When Steve Jobs died a few years back, I honestly couldn’t muster up any care. The guy did some good work but he wasn’t this massive philanthropist or even a tech guy who made all these things he was selling. He was a salesman and an idea man, tasking others with the job to do the real work. Which is fine and all, but to call him some one of a kind genius that demanded some sort of idolatry when he passed was a bit disingenuous to me. And the idea of a biopic of the guy just irked me for some reason. Especially when two were gonna be made, one with Ashton Kutcher as the man and another being spearheaded creatively by Aaron Sorkin.
The Kutcher one had be at 0 on an interest level and I would never see it, with the response it got making feel right in my decision. But the Aaron Sorkin one had my attention just from the inclusion of Sorkin taking on the mans life, since he helped make the story of Facebook interesting. The Newsroom aside, the mans work demands attention. Then Danny Boyle came on to direct, another man who demands attention when he joins a movie at this point in his career. And the coup de grace? Michael Fassbender, one of this generations best actors, taking on the task of making Jobs an interesting figure. Those three elements made Steve Jobs a begrudging must see. And luckily for us, it worked out.
What sets this apart from most biopics is that it does not have a typical structure, something that one would assume from this kind of movie. It doesn’t cram all of his life into 2 hours. This movie is essentially three scenes, each one an act long. And each act is the 30 or so minutes before the launch of an item Jobs has spearheaded, all told in real time. And before these launches, he has to deal with all the people in his life. And it’s all done seamlessly, thanks to Sorkins next level writing. We get all we need to know about the man and the time in between launches without anything feeling overly expositiony. What’s interesting about this structure i that two of the three launches they lead up to are failures. So we get to see the man fail massively until the world catches up with his genius. And the best element of Sorkins script that is executed perfectly? He doesn’t shy away from what an absolute asshole that Jobs was. This is no simply circle jerk to the man. This is a warts and all portrayal of the man, even if there is the sense that the creatives on the flick really do think he’s great. Which is fine with the warts and all approach. He’s a beat of a dead beat dad, treats the baby momma like a crazy whore, barrels over everyone in his path like their insects and thinks of himself as a world changing god. And they spend the whole movie, literally up to the final frames, showing what a dick he is. There’s moments sprinkled throughout of the humanity that was in him, but that’s the exception that proves the rule. Like many Sorkin stories, this asks the question of “does one need to be a scumbag to be a genius”. And it works beautifully.
This flick has a great cast, but it all comes down to the man at the helm, and Fassbender is more than up to the challenge. This is not a transformative movie where you won’t know it’s Fassbender the whole time. He only puts on an accent to sound more like Jobs, but this isn’t Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. Fassbender gets to the soul of Jobs though and he makes the man utterly fascinating and utterly irritating. You want to throttle the guy, to shake him out of the fog of genius that makes him push most of his loved ones away. You see the genius and the bravado and the humanity within him. And you can see why people follow him. As for the rest of the cast, the biggest supporting role has to be Kate Winslet as his number two lady. Winslet is pretty transformative here, with a nice ole wig and 80s coke bottle glasses and a pretty good Polish accent. Seth Rogen appears as the main architect that helped build Apple, the kinda spacey and socially unaware nice guy Steve Wozniak. He makes the most out of his part in the limited time he gets and does it well. Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Katherine Waterston all do great work in their limited time with the man. But the most important relationship in the movie, the emotional crux of it all and the one that changes Jobs is the one with his daughter. For the beginning of her life, he denies that he is her father but still provides her and her mother with money. And we see her in all three acts, portrayed by three different actresses. Their relationship is great. You can see Jobs has care and love for her, but distances himself from her. There’s one moment in the second act that got me all choked up and it’s all thanks to Fassbenders absolute selling of the moment.
Sorkin and Fassbender do great work, that’s not up for debate. But I can see Danny Boyle getting a bit short changed with this movie, since it lacks the usual visual panache of his prior movies. Not that it’s a bad looking movie at all. It really is good looking and shot with aplomb. But he doesn’t go for many visual tricks for the most part, only bringing them out in a few moments. He is in service of the story and performances here, letting Sorkin and Fassbender do the work they need to to sell it. He wrangles it all together and it’s damn good work.
I was absolutely floored when this movie ended. Steve Jobs never interested me as a man or icon, so a cinematic effort to make him seem important seemed an uphill battle. But with the talent accrued to make this movie, I had to go and I was not disappointed at all. Sorkin may have delivered his best script yet, Fassbender continues to prove why he’s one of the best in the game, and Boyle pulls the reins back to allow the talent he has do their thing. By focusing on the negative aspects of the man, it highlights his achievements. This is an amazing piece of cinema and one that I would be surprised not see pop up come awards season.