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Steve Jobs – Movie Review

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Steve Jobs – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Steve Jobs was a technological innovator, albeit one who had a lot of help from others when putting his computers and high-tech toys together. Jobs, the biopic from two years ago, tried to cram his lifetime into two hours, but it felt undercooked. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay takes the better approach by highlighting three key moments in his life and using that to dig deeper into his inner problems. Steve Jobs is mainly about relationships, ones we see grow through the course of the movie. Danny Boyle’s approach to directing the film might be a bit more warm than what David Fincher might have done with the same material, but he nonetheless shows an equal understanding of the man.

With the heavy emphasis on dialogue and minimal locations, Steve Jobs does resemble a play. However, that makes the experience more intimate. When Jobs is talking with his colleagues down hallways, we feel like we’re following them as they make their way to the presentation stage. Sorkin’s dialogue is sharp and snappy, not surprising coming from the writer of The Social Network. Meanwhile, Boyle’s direction takes us back to those three time periods and it becomes a solid flashback to the 1980s during the first two acts, complete with technical limitations and blocky machines characteristic of that era. Boyle’s tendency for hyper-active cutting is kept to a minimum here. Yet editor Elliot Graham is able to keep the plot moving, even though the entire film consists of mainly wall-to-wall conversations.

Aaron Sorkin structures Steve Jobs in a way where the Apple guru has to confront each major relationship of his and that allows for a lot of strong character growth. The most involving has him deal with him having a daughter and his constant denial of him being the parent. It’s where Sorkin most explores Jobs’s cold and detached personality as well as his more sympathetic qualities. The relationship between Jobs and Lisa is believable and Boyle doesn’t push the sentimentality too hard. If he had gone the schmaltz route, it would have betrayed the Steve Jobs character as envisioned here. Even more tragic is the dissolution of friendships, particularly the one with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Their arguments about giving credit where it’s due are raw and almost tense in execution. Despite the heated debates with John Sculley, Sorkin does make him a sympathetic character and it’s clear that firing Jobs from Apple was not a decision done without remorse.

With a script like Sorkin’s to work from, the actors realise the potential of his dialogue and make the people on the page real. Michael Fassbender doesn’t look like Steve Jobs, but the film mainly lets the iconic turtleneck and jeans handle the physical transformation. Fassbender portrays Jobs with a temperament that is never theatrical and he is actually at his best when he’s not saying a single word. There are scenes where he is simply thinking and looking at wonderment at the inventions he helped create and we know precisely what he’s thinking. Jeff Daniels’s Sculley keeps their scenes together at a high altitude of intensity and Katherine Waterston makes Jobs’s former lover somebody we do feel emotional attachment towards. Kate Winslet shows that Joanna Hoffman was indeed somebody who could stand up to Jobs, even if her accent fluctuates at times. Seth Rogen doesn’t quite shake the image of the lovable weed-smoking rapscallion from our heads, but it’s a solid dramatic performance from a usually comic presence. The three young actresses playing Lisa at various ages are all necessarily consistent in this role that actually proves just as important as Fassbender’s.

Steve Jobs isn’t structured like a typical biopic, but that is precisely why it works so well. Its unique narrative makes it involving and Danny Boyle’s play-like approach in directing it is precisely what makes it so captivating. We already know about Jobs’s creative and technical accomplishments and the film smartly jumps to the next act just before he is about to announce his latest innovation to the crowd. We also don’t need to know about the little odds and ends that went into the Macintosh computer. What we should be learning about is the man behind those electronic devises and the people around him. That is what this film understands.

Stefan Ellison

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