Your enjoyment of Director Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs will be dependent on how much of an Apple acolyte you are. If you love Apple and Steve Jobs with every ounce of your soul, you’ll probably want to skip this one, but you’ll be missing a well-written, well-acted film.
The film takes place over the course of fourteen years in Steve Jobs’ life. There are three major scenes each taking place in the moments prior to a product launch for Jobs (Michael Fassbender): Macintosh (1984), NeXt (1988), and iMac (1998). Jobs’ life is essentially distilled into the conversations he has with a carousel of recurring characters in his life. They include: his “work wife,” Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and his ex, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) or his daughter Lisa.
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin based his sharp screenplay on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Jobs, and depicts the man as a marketing genius, but also an unrepentant asshole with a God complex. According to the movie, Jobs was a maddening perfectionist who was forever opposed to a little word called compromise. So, while Sorkin’s script helps keep the audience riveted, they may want to look away because the main character can be so unlikable. Despite what the filmmakers may say in the press, the movie definitely paints him in an unfavorable light, but that’s also what makes it so fascinating. How did so many people follow this man who clearly thought on another level from the rest of us, but could be so critical that he alienated everyone around him? That’s the story that Steve Jobs never really tells the audience. He’s a genius and we’re just supposed to accept that he was also a nice guy much of the time in order to win people over. We see glimpses of that person, but not enough to counteract all the instances of him being a jerk off. Much of the film is focused on Jobs’ relationship with his daughter Lisa, whom Jobs denied was his daughter, at least at first, so that doesn’t really win him any points with the audience either. In addition to the three main scenes, there are flashback sequences that fill in a few of the holes, but even though this is an unorthodox approach to a biopic, we still get a good idea of who Jobs was. It’s just that not all audiences will appreciate the approach Boyle and Sorkin take to tell Jobs’ story. It’s much more like a play than a movie and felt a little long in some parts, but most of the time, Boyle and Sorkin keep it moving well.
The film is filled with fantastic performances starting with Fassbender as Jobs. Michael Fassbender looks nothing like Steve Jobs, but he does a good job sounding like him. I thought he was great. He delivers his lines in such a matter-of-fact way it became uncomfortable at times. Winslet is great as his right hand woman Joanna, but honestly, she has an accent in the last two thirds of the film that I didn’t even notice in the first act. So, her voice work was a little uneven. Rogen delivers one of the best performances of his career as Wozniak, a guy who was friends and co-founded Apple with Jobs, but who ultimately felt like he was groveling for just a fraction of the recognition that Jobs got for the company’s success. Stuhlbarg is great as the nebbish Andy while Waterston shows that her performance in Inherent Vice was no fluke. Jeff Daniels again proves himself to be one of our best living actors as he takes on Sculley. His scenes with Fassbender are electric as they clash over the years.
Overall, if you think Steve Jobs was a saint, you may not like the film Steve Jobs. However if you can accept that he was a genius, but a very flawed man, you may just enjoy this biopic.