Directed by Danny Boyle. Produced by Danny Boyle, Guymon Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon, and Scott Rudin. Written by Aaron Sorkin. Release date: October 9, 2015 (limited); October 23, 2015 (wide).
Steve Jobs is another one of those movies that, on paper, may not seem like it would work, but thanks to fantastic filmmakers, it turns into a great project. Focusing on just three key moments in the life of its eponymous lead, played by Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs is a movie that manages to somehow convey to the audience a significant amount of complexity, a staggering amount of depth, and more than enough humor to make this idea pay off. As a result, Steve Jobs winds up being one of the best movies of the year, and may have you looking at the American icon in a different way after it concludes – depending on the amount of research you’d done on his life before seeing it, of course.
The film takes us backstage into the hours before three key product launches in Jobs’ life. The first was the Macintosh in 1984, followed by the NeXT box in 1988, and finally the iMac in 1998. Each segment is given approximately the same amount of time, although apart from a few practice scenes, we don’t get to see the presentations. Instead, we focus on what happened behind the scenes. Jobs was a tough person with whom to get along, and that’s demonstrated clearly from the opening scene to the last. Because of this, his relationships with various individuals were complicated, to say the least. As we progress through the years, we get to see how these relationships played out, and the impact they had on each individual involved.
If you’re at all familiar with the history of Apple or the life of Steve Jobs, some of these names may sound familiar. Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) was Jobs’ primary assistant, following him from project to project and making sure everything was running smoothly. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) was a co-founder of Apple and created the Apple I and Apple II. Katherine Waterston was Jobs’ girlfriend and mother to Jobs’ daughter, Lisa (played by multiple actors). John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) was the CEO of Apple for a decade, lured away from Pepsi at the behest of Jobs. And Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) was a member of Jobs’ team and played an integral role in his life.
Unless I’m mistaken, each character appears in all three segments of which the film consists. Many of them only get one or two conversations with Jobs before he moves to the next person or problem. But in these interactions, so much happens. Years of relationship drama is condensed into minutes, and yet it never feels overloaded with information. We understand exactly where each party is coming from within a matter of moments. There are brief flashbacks to fill in what the dialogue can’t organically explain, but they’re not a hindrance.
For a movie that consists almost solely of smart people talking to one another, Steve Jobs is surprisingly funny and entertaining.
There are three elements that Steve Jobs needed to get right to be successful. First and foremost is the leading performance of Michael Fassbender, who may not look exactly like the man he’s playing, but he captures so much of the essence that you never once doubt him. Second, we needed a good script. Luckily, Aaron Sorkin – whose recent projects include The Newsroom, Moneyball, and The Social Network – was brought in to write the script, adapting it from a book written by Walter Isaacson. Finally, the direction needed to be in top form, particularly in trying to balance the delicate three-act plot, as well as trying to set the right tone for such a movie. Danny Boyle served as the film’s director, turning in his best project since Sunshine. There is so much going on in Steve Jobs, and keeping it all straight couldn’t have been easy. Add in a few stylish flourishes, and you can tell Boyle was completely involved in the process and put in his all.
If Fassbender’s Jobs wasn’t such an enigmatic, if flawed, character, we might take greater notice of Kate Winslet, who, like a chameleon, vanishes into her role of Joanna Hoffman. With a dark wig and a Polish accent, you could be forgiven for not even noticing that it’s someone as famous and well-known as Winslet. When was the last time she was this good? Meanwhile, Seth Rogen of all people is great as Steve Wozniak. That might be the film’s biggest surprise. Jeff Daniels is reliable as John Sculley, Katherine Waterston needed more to do as Chrisann Brennan, and the various actors playing Jobs’ daughter do well, too.
For a movie that consists almost solely of smart people talking to one another, Steve Jobs is surprisingly funny and entertaining. It’s informative and will keep you thinking, too, but just as a pure form of entertainment, it’s great. Boyle infuses the movie such an energy; the characters are always moving and doing two or three things at once. Sorkin’s scripts are known for a specific brand of humor, and you get lots of it here. But you also get a ton of character depth, a great deal of focus on the relationships between various individuals, and a complex portrait of Steve Jobs. He’s neither hero nor villain; the movie’s too intelligent to paint in such absolute shades.
Steve Jobs is the Steve Jobs biopic to watch, letting you easily forget another one that is better off not being mentioned ever again. Despite taking place well into Jobs’ adult life, and being set in just three days, this is a movie that gets you into the man’s head, lets you watch his interactions with all of the key players in his life, and provides a funny, entertaining movie while balancing all of these various elements. Michael Fassbender is electric, Kate Winslet disappears into her role, and the rest of the supporting cast is excellent. Steve Jobs is a great movie, saving the weekend of October 23rd from being a complete waste solely by its expansion.
Bottom Line: A fantastic biopic, Steve Jobs takes you into the world of a genius.
Recommendation: Anyone with any interest in anyone involved – from the real-life people, to the actors, to those behind the camera – should see Steve Jobs.[rating=4.5]