Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Sarah Snook, John Ortiz, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, and Perla Haney-Jardine
Synopsis: Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steven Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Former Apple CEO and, arguably, the face of the company, Steve Jobs is a polarizing figure. Whether you believe the stories or not, or you like him or not, Jobs has done wonders in the industry of technology. There has also been two films on Jobs’ life, but this one takes a different approach to the other films and is based on the biography novel by Walter Isaacson titled “Steve Jobs.” Director Danny Boyle brings some interesting ideas and filmmaking to Steve Jobs, and while some will find it repetitive, the film is filled with great performances all around.
Steve Jobs is broken down into three different parts. Each part takes place during the launch of three different products that Steve Jobs (Fassbender) was a part: 1984 with the launch of Macintosh computer, 1988’s NeXT, and finally 1998’s iMac. Each where filmed differently, the first on 16mm, the second in 35mm, and the last part is filmed digitally. Does that matter? Probably not, but I’m just saying since it is noticeably, well, for me anyway. Also, it was a nice move by Boyle to do that since it also shows the advancements in technology in our own right.
Anyway, Steve Jobs starts in 1984 before the launch of the Macintosh computer. The film wastes no time getting into the thick of everything. The film is about two hours long, and every segment, for the lack of a better word, is roughly thirty minutes or more. And they are very heavy handed. The film is very Aaron Sorkin as the dialogue is very brisk, breathless, and witty. At the beginning of the film we get a good feel to how Jobs would be portrayed as Jobs is ticked off at Andy Hertzfeld (Stuhlbarg) that the Macintosh isn’t saying “hello.” We are not just introduced to Hertzfeld, but to pretty the whole cast in Jobs’ marketing expert and right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), Jobs’ oldest friend and engineer Steve Wozinak (Rogen), Andrea “Andy” Cunningham (Snook), reporter Joel Pforzheimer (Ortiz), and former President of Apple and father figure-like John Sculley (Daniels).
The film doesn’t really show any of the actual launch presentations, as it decides to focus on the craziness going on before. Jobs even says at one point “it seems like five minutes before every launch, everyone gets drunk and decides to air their grievances,” which is true. The biggest dramatic moments happen right before Jobs is getting ready to go out on stage. The first is one is the heavily featured story with his daughter Lisa played by Makenzie Moss, or as Jobs proclaims multiple times during that part is not his daughter, and the mother of his daughter Chrisann (Waterston). The second is Jobs moving on from Apple with the NeXT and “clearing the air” with Hertzfeld, Wozinak, and Sculley, but it’s Sculley that takes the biggest chuck and is, for me, the best part and most dramatic part of the film. Jeff Daniels’ performance as Sculley, especially in this scene that also involves flashbacks, is just phenomenal. The back-and-forth between Daniels and Michael Fassbender is amazing to watch and it did, honestly, leave me breathless and as soon as the scene was over I took a deep breath and thought “wow.” The final big dramatic scenes are between Jobs and Wozinak going at it again and having an argument they had at the beginning of the film, and between Jobs, Joanna, and his teen daughter Lisa (Haney-Jardine).
I’m going to be honest, this one is hard for me to review. One, because the scenes have so much in them, although it’s never overbearing and handled in a good way, and two, some of the actions, especially, Jobs’ actions are subjective and should be seen for yourself. This is where many will be split on the film. Do they believe that Jobs was mean to everyone around him and was a pain in the ass to work with or was he truly a genius that no one saw? The film also struggles with answering this question. Jobs is both a pain in the ass to almost everyone around him, but has moments of true genuine compassion toward his daughter sometimes – albeit sometimes reluctant – and has moments of great charisma. However, do his good moments outweigh his negative moments? That’s up to you to decide. And remember, this isn’t a documentary and things are probably and obviously dramatize.
Even if you don’t like Steve Jobs, let’s just say the character for the sake of argument, the cast and performances make this film all the worthwhile. Fassbender is great as Jobs and brings everything he can possibly bring to the role. But, despite the other great performances by the rest of the cast, Steve Jobs is Fassbender’s show. I already mentioned Daniels is great, and the rest of the cast have their fair share of highlights. Kate Winslet is nearly unrecognizable with her black-haired wig and small accent. Seth Rogen proves he can do a scene without cracking a joke and come off as a great actor, although he doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but just enough for us to get a good feel for him. Katherine Waterston holds her own with Fassbender especially when they are shouting at each other. Michael Stuhlbarg surprised me with this turn of Hertzfeld, he takes most of the word beatings from Jobs and keeps going. The three actresses that play Lisa over the years are pretty great too, although there was something about the older Lisa that didn’t quite click with me. Sarah Snook and John Ortiz are kind of left out of everything, but when they appear it is rather welcoming.
All in all, Steve Jobs will definitely be one of those films that will have you talking. Whether you like Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s vision of Steve Jobs or not, you can’t say that Jobs didn’t know what he was doing and rolled with the punches. The cast give amazing performances all around, but Michael Fassbender is the star of the show and his Steve Jobs is equal parts tragic figure, hardheaded, standoffish, charismatic, and visionary.
4.5 out of 5