STEVE JOBS (review)
Written by Aaron Sorkin / Directed by Danny Boyle / Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen
Steve Jobs: Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.
I don’t know if Steve Jobs himself was in fact a genius, but I do know that STEVE JOBS the movie certainly borders on it. The performances – from Michael Fassbender’s bold interpretation of the man behind the myth, to Kate Winslet’s fascinating take on the woman behind the man, to the fantastic supporting cast including Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Michael Stuhlbarg – all are fantastic. The direction, by a restrained Danny Boyle, is the best we could have hoped for after the project fell away from original director, David Fincher. The true hero of this film though is none other than Aaron Sorkin. He has written a film which is maybe 95% dialogue, which sounds overbearing, but in reality, I never wanted them to stop talking.
It is no secret that Sorkin has a way with whirling words around without wasting a single one. He does this eloquently here, but it is his brazen three act structure that is most worthy of commendation. Sorkin gives us the near canonized Jobs in real time before three significant product launches. Jobs whips around backstage as he has confrontations and conversations with anyone who has any significance in his life in the minutes leading up to his taking the stage, which he never does late. Now, there is no way that this is in fact how these launches went down; clearly Sorkin has taken a lot of liberties with how and when these altercations took place, if they even took place. That isn’t the point though. He isn’t telling us Jobs’ life story; like he did in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, he is trying to get at a better understanding of a man through exploring what he stood for and what he gave the world, from the grander sense of that word to those closest to him. At the same time, he paints a portrait of a man who fought hard and failed for a good chunk of his life, but who never gives up.
When I said Boyle showed restraint earlier, I meant that he resisted utilizing the kind of flashy, scattered trickery he ordinarily employs, mostly. Words still appear on walls unnecessarily to underline certain points and cars still speed along highways in time lapse photography to suggest the passing of time, but even Boyle knows that he needs to let the words speak for themselves this time out. This is especially true when they are coming out the mouths of these particular actors. Fassbender doesn’t make much of an effort to look anything like Jobs in the first two acts of the film, but this allows us to focus further on what is being said, both blatantly and subconsciously, without being distracted by whether or not the likeness works. Watching Fassbender spar with Winslet is electrifying. She is his unflinching voice of reason and he plays off her as if he almost can’t help but be affected by her words, even as he is trying to suppress them. The real time factor allows all of the actors to showcase just how diverse their talents are. It is like incredible live theatre captured brilliantly on celluloid.
Some might watch STEVE JOBS and feel that it vilifies the man at its centre and exploits his failings for artistic purposes. I didn’t feel that. Sure, Jobs doesn’t come off as a particularly kind human being but he didn’t get where he did in life by being kind. He may have changed the world with his vision but he wasn’t a saint. He, like you and me, was flawed and Sorkin gives us those flaws without apologies or excuses. And while STEVE JOBS the movie does look past Steve Jobs the man to ask important questions about creation and the consequences of genius, it also reminds us that Jobs was at times vulnerable, capable of fear and love, and despite his best efforts, more man than machine.
How many sheep would you give Steve Jobs?