Did another movie about controversial Apple co-founder Steve Jobs really need to be made? Maybe not (well maybe after the very middle of the road Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher), but we got the best version imaginable, directed by Danny Boyle, written by Aaron Sorkin (based off of Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs) and starring the consistently great Michael Fassbender in the titular role.
Steve Jobs is told in an orthodox manner, split into three sections, all of which follow Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) immediately prior to the launch of three key products of his career: the Apple Macintosh, the NeXT Computer and the iMac. Through this method Sorkin is able to integrate the evolving, or rather dissolving relationships that Jobs is failing to maintain throughout the years, all while he’s trying to focus on launching a product that is the real apple of his eye.
At the Macintosh launch Jobs deals with the problems and requests of his Apple developer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and marketing director Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). Hoffman also acts as Jobs’ personal assistant, on top of his duties to former romantic partner Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) in making sure that their daughter Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss) is taken care of financially. Only Jobs threatens Hertzfeld if he fails to fix an issue. He stubbornly fails to acknowledge the Apple II team as Wozniak requests. He denies that he’s the true father of Lisa in brutal fashion to both her and Chrisann. He’s a brilliant man, but clearly a flawed human with a mean streak.
As Boyle and Sorkin take us to the next two launches, we see the cyclical nature of Jobs and these relationships, none of which are improving for the better, maybe sans Joanna in a tough dedicated love sort of way. “It’s like five minutes before every launch, everyone goes to a bar, gets drunk, and tells me what they really think of me,” is a great line penned by Sorkin that is self-aware to the circular nature that their chosen route of storytelling brings. In this way we are removed of a lot of fact and just are presented with the cold hard facts and relationships, that move at the typical breakneck speed fashion that we’ve come to expect from Sorkin.
Sorkin’s script is air tight, and Boyle’s direction is a visual colorful treat, whose uses the architecture of the buildings where the product launches take place and frame the characters in a delicate manner which captures the time and feel of each era. Each actor is at their very best, whether it’s the award worthy performance from Michael Fassbender, whose truly at the top of his game. There’s also the steady and slightly understated performance from Kate Winslet. Seth Rogen shows off his dramatic acting chops delivering a surprising low-key nuanced performance that many will not see coming. Then there’s memorable support work from Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, and Perla Haney-Jardine as 19-year-old Lisa Brennan in the final act.
Even with all his great accomplishments, it’s hard to find a lot of reasons to like Steve Jobs when stripped down to a person. He’s flawed for sure, and for the first two acts of the film, he’d gladly tell you otherwise. Sorkin and Boyle don’t paint the prettiest picture here, but Jobs gets a bit of redemption in the reflective third act, where Fassbender gives Jobs plenty of humane moments that shine a bit of light on the dark shadow previously cast on him.
If you’re looking for a full bodied biopic that captures all aspects of Steve Jobs life, this isn’t the one. But if you’re looking for a unique cinematic snapshot of the tech genius that gives us glimpses into his genius and madness that is well acted and dramatically gripping, this is the film for you.