Studio: Universal Pictures (2 hr. 2 min)
Plot: 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 an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, Kate Winslet, Sarah Snook, Jeff Daniels
Bottom Line: ***
By Jon Rutledge
Aaron Sorkin has a very distinctive style of storytelling. His scripts are sharply written. Interactions are high paced and the dialog is intense. The setting of this film, a behind the scenes look at Apple during of three major product launches under Steve Job's watch, where time is short and tempers shorter is a very logical place for his kind of writing. The Director’s (Danny Boyle) films are completely stunning. You can see his skill in Slumdog Millionaire, and Trainspotting. He has a wonderful visual sense of how to relay tension and thought on the screen. Both of these masters in their fields working together create a story that shows us the human side of a legend. This film seems to be about an industry leader and innovator showing off some of the major accomplishments but really it’s about a brilliant man trying to manage his professional and familial relationships.
Not taking the traditional,cradle to grave, bio picture route, Sorkin uses these milestones in Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) life to frame the passage of time and focus on how he has changed from launch to launch. Highlighting relationships over technology makes this film accessible to more than just the technology fan base. This fictionalized story surrounds five relationships in Steve’s life we see not only behind the scenes of each product launch we see behind the legend. John Scully (Jeff Daniels) the CEO of apple at the time of the Macintosh release. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) a friend and co worker who is in charge of the Apple II line. Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) Steve’s ex-girlfriend and mother to their daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss) and Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) the personal assistant.
The first act is the most unapologetically honest example of how Steve was. We see him at his most entrenched and most selfish. Completely devoted to the product launch and nothing will distracting him from it. Everything must be right. He is fighting against the naysayers on the board of directors, his co workers and a public opinion that computers are evil. On this big night he struggles with a technical problem with his demonstration, has to deal with Lisa’s Mother asking for more money to support their daughter, and his friend Steve asking him to acknowledge the success of older but profitable Apple II computer line. His priorities are with the product and less on anything else. Steve even go so far as to tell Lisa that he is not her father. It is hard to watch.
There is a huge contrast in the last act that surrounds the launch of the iMac 14 years later. Michael Fassbender does an outstanding job showing the growth of the character. We see a different side of Steve jobs an older and more in touch with what is important in life. We now see a man who is struggling more with his relationship with his daughter (Pearl Haney-Jardine) than the product. This is the most endearing portion of the film and Steve Jobs seems the most vulnerable. The story ties up all of the characters introduced in the first film and it’s a brilliantly neat conclusion.
Relationships start out strong fall apart and get reconciled. Friendships break. We also see a father becoming more comfortable with fatherhood. One constant in the film is Steve’s assistant Joanna Hoffman. Her approval for a deception in the first launch to solve a technical problem really highlights how important this role was in his life. She is also pivotal in getting him to see that he is screwing up with his daughter. She is a moral compass as well as his wrangler.
The story spans 14 years in their lives, three different actresses played the role of Job’s daughter, Lisa Brennan. Out of all of them, Riply Sobo, who plays her at age 9, had the most work in building the relationship. Her appearance in the second act really sets the stage for how troubled her life was and how much she still idolized her father.
The debate around this film is whether they show an accurate picture of Steve Jobs. For me I don’t see anything that we don’t already know about his life. This picture is showing us more of an internal struggle surrounding his relationship with his daughter. That is what the central focus of this film is. Steve Jobs has been reported to be hard to work with. He was harsher than he needed to be because he was changing the way we see the world.
A really great line in the film comes from Steve Wozniak “It’s not binary, you can be decent and brilliant at the same time. “ I would agree, however you can’t communicate well with people who are so far behind you.
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This was printed in the November 29, 2015 - December 12, 2015 eidition.