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Steve Jobs (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs


Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sarah Snook, Katherine Waterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, John Ortiz, Vanessa Ross and Adam Shapiro.

Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.

Directed by Danny Boyle.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  122 minutes.  Rated R.

You’d think that Steve Jobs had a fascinating life.  After all, the man changed the world, became a multi-billionaire, was the face for creating some of the most important technological advances of all time, was a well-known eligible bachelor, ran one of the biggest corporations in the world and died at a tragically young age.

This is the third film on Jobs’ life that has been released in the past year.  First off was the misbegotten docudrama Jobs (Ashton Kutcher as Jobs? Really?).  Next out of the gate was master documentarian Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.

The latest film, Steve Jobs, which was written by Oscar-winning scribe Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and directed by fellow Oscar winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), is far and away the better of the two fictional dramatizations of Jobs’ life.  (I haven’t seen the documentary, but as good as it may have been I doubt it was as impressive of a piece of sheer filmmaking as this one as well.)

In many ways Steve Jobs is a masterpiece.  It is evocatively written.  The acting is spectacular.  The cinematography is arresting.  It has huge, majestic visuals and intimate, quiet moments of self-doubt and pity.  Actor Michael Fassbender does an incredible impersonation of Jobs, even to the point of looking surprisingly much like the executive in the later scenes.

However, no matter how good Steve Jobs is – and it is a terrific film in most ways – it highlights the very basic problem with making a film about Steve Jobs.  His life simply wasn’t all that interesting.  He did not create most of the technologies for which he was known.  (These were mostly done by Apple scientists, particularly his less flashy, more wonkish partner Steve Wozniak.)  Jobs was the salesman, the huckster, the idea man who got them out to the world.

Which in itself is a huge talent and a skill, but not necessarily the most cinematic skill in the world.  In fact, for as well-made as Steve Jobs is, it mostly shows that for a man that was at the forefront of so much of recent history, Steve Job’s life was actually kind of dull.  And, frankly, he was more than a bit of an asshole.

Of course, similar things could be said about Sorkin’s similar 2011 bio-pic of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network, and while that film was terrific and all of those things, it was also just a bit more accessible to an audience.

Steve Jobs actually has a very regimented structure, not letting much of the man into his own biography.

The film focuses on three product launches at different points in Jobs’ career.  Each product launch is beset by ramped up versions of the same subjects.

A last minute technical glitch threatens to ruin the launch, causing the scientists to scramble to fix things.  Jobs threatens and cajoles his scientists – particularly Wozniak (a spot-on Seth Rogan) and Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) – to get things up and running or it will be their jobs.

Jobs’ long-suffering assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) tries to calm her over-caffeinated perfectionist boss and to keep everything running smoothly for the launch.

Jobs butts heads with his immediate superior up the food chain at Apple (and eventually his predecessor), John Sculley (played by Jeff Daniels).

And Jobs tries to come to some kind of relationship with his out-of-wedlock daughter (played at different ages by Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo and Makenzie Moss) – who he spends much of the film denying paternity for – even though it is very strained.  Just a thought, but that may be because A) he denies he is her father, B) he is passive-aggressively dismissive of his ex/her mother and C) he punishes her for getting bad grades by reneging on a promise to pay her tuition.

It’s all very fast paced, written with the familiar zingy, smart Sorkin dialogue, it is flashy, shiny and insanely well-made.  And yet, in the end, the audience can’t help but feel that they spent two hours of their life watching nothing much happen.

That nothing much happened with exceptional artistic thrust and focus, but in the long run it sort of feels like a shiny, fancy trinket that we are impressed by, but had no real need for.

Sort of like an Apple Watch.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: November 5, 2015.

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