Steve Jobs  is the latest in a long list of Jobs-inspired films, features and documentaries alike. It releases just two years after 2013’s Jobs, which was called inaccurate by many, including Steve Wozniak, who knew Jobs better than almost anyone.
Writer Aaron Sorkin has not escaped the claims of inaccuracy from everyone, but managed to capture the character, the personality of Jobs. “I felt like I was actually watching Steve Jobs”, said Wozniak of the film.
What’s most important about this film is how it differs from a standard biopic; it is far from being such. The film is structured very much like a Broadway play: there are three 30-minute acts that cover, in real-time, three different launch events that Jobs lead; the sets are very defined, and even take place primarily on show stages; the character interactions and dialogue could translate directly to a stage play with the pacing and trading of monologues. If it weren’t for a select few montage-like flashback sequences, this movie could translate directly to the stage without any changes. Additionally, the backbone of the story doesn’t focus on Jobs’ successes and failures as an innovator in the tech industry, but more-so on his personal relationships with the likes of his marketing manager, a lead developer, his co-founder and friend, his CEO and boss, and most importantly, his daughter and her mother. Each act finds Jobs speaking with these five-or-so characters in a miniature battle for pride, prejudice, property, and the like, and we see firsthand the evolution, or lack-there-of, within these characters and their relationships with each other.
With an almost completely played-out subject, Sorkin and director Danny Boyle have found a way to create a new, unique view of Jobs’ story, and the structure was a perfect fit for the type of character study they aimed to create, and a perfect fit for Sorkin’s style of writing. Smart, proud people who draw from history’s greatest innovators and leaders duel each other with snappy dialogue, which is Sorkin’s niche. This was a wonderfully smart choice of subject-matter for Sorkin, as the characters and environments of the product releases were perfect for his walk-and-talks and his high-horse monologues. Paired with a director that could create a tense, interesting story out of a guy stuck under a rock for 127 hours, the film succeeds in creating a suitable, enjoyable vector for Sorkin’s writing. After just recently finishing a re-watch of Sorkin’s The West Wing and finally finishing The Newsroom, it is clear that the dialogue in this film, while not completely void of some too-fast/too-complex dialogue, is attainable and suitable for most all viewers, which hasn’t always been the case in Sorkin’s previous work.
I did have some issues with the editing, direction, and structure of the film within it’s flashbacks. While primarily using the simple three-act play style, the movie has a few key scenes of tension and arguments that rely on events and information from the past, and the flashbacks are sometimes given in back-and-forth, really fast/sleek editing styles that harshly contradicts the simple style. As standalone scenes, I actually think they are effective and exciting displays of the story, but the styles are just too black-and-white for me not to be turned off by them. Similarly, the film uses a few graphical displays of text and video that overlay the sets and echo or reinforce some key Jobs monologues, and they feel forced and pasted on. They make for cute trailer-type imagery, but have no place in the style/format of the film.
Michael Fassbender leads the film in the titular role, and it’s a performance unique to those of Fassbender’s past. Mostly an action/adventure, fictional actor, it is interesting to see Fassbender in a more pedestrian setting, and he did a great job with it. The compliment from Wozniak has to go mostly to Fassbender’s performance. All of the actors did swell, as Jeff Daniels returned to a Sorkin creation, and as Seth Rogen continues to show his depth of talent outside of stoner comedies, but Kate Winslet takes the cake in my mind (save her strange, sometimes-there-sometimes-not accent).
The content of the story held a lot of facts, or supposed facts, that I was unaware of. The first act of the film contains a lot of information from the trailer and other headline-worthy topics, but as the film progresses, I found myself ignorant to the story arch, and would love to know how much, if any, of the story was fabricated for the sake of the script. There were some key subjects left out of the film, especially the fact that Jobs would have a much more wholesome marriage and would father three additional children, which I feel imposes a great deal more on the character depicted in this film, as the most important relationship shown in the movie is that with his daughter.
The most important and telling quote of the film comes from Rogen’s Wozniak, in the final act, when he declares “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time”. Jobs’ character defies this idea throughout the story, but clearly struggles with the idea. Jobs fights with his daughter’s mother, denying his paternity, and questioning her motives and character. At the end of the day, however, he willingly helps them financially, and does what he thinks is the right thing, even if we as viewers find countless flaws in his going-about doing it.
Finally, what I saw to be the biggest flaw, is the finale; Jobs reconciling (for the x-th time) his relationship with his daughter. A new light is shown on Jobs and his character, painting him as a more human, morally sound father and partner, but the evolution and path to this re-emergence is nowhere to be found. The change blindsides you, and fades to black with an image that feels forced, as if Sorkin and company didn’t want us to leave the theater thinking that Jobs was a bad guy, even if he might have been. It’s a depth of his character that was only ever barely hinted at, but is thrust upon us in the closing minutes; a strange turn of events.
Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle couple to create a unique style of non-fictional storytelling. While not wholly revealing, Michael Fassbender and the rest of the cast and crew have crafted a focused, artful portrayal of a cold, complex character.