A Dazzling Look at “Steve Jobs”

Michael Fassbender-Steve Jobs-2-680You wouldn’t
expect director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin to deliver a conventional
biography of Steve Jobs—and they don’t. What we get, instead, is a vivid
“imagining” (to use Boyle’s word) of Jobs’ life, told in dynamic, nonlinear fashion.
It’s not a stretch to compare it to Citizen
, piecing together the puzzle of a high-profile life, although this
film focuses on a real-life figure whose narrative has become the stuff of
modern mythology. As such, it assumes that we’re already familiar with many of
the basics.

Sorkin has
built his clever screenplay around three turning points in Jobs’ career, all of
them product announcements. Much of the drama takes place backstage, in the
high-pressure moments before he’s about to unveil something new and
revolutionary. Each of these chapters is interrupted by flashbacks that help
fill in the personal and professional backstory. The linking device is the
repudiation of his daughter, who grows from a child to young womanhood over the
course of the film. I leave it to you to discover what constitutes Jobs’
equivalent of the Rosebud sled.

Kate Winslet-Steve Jobs-680Boyle has
brought his visual razzle-dazzle to an already charged screenplay, with
impressive results. He and cinematographer Alwin Kuchler take full advantage of
their Bay Area locations, including the San Francisco Opera House, and make us
feel as if we’re actually there, sharing private moments with Jobs and his
colleagues. The film rarely stops moving and is filled with Sorkin’s trademark
walking-and-talking shots.

Fassbender gives another exceptional performance, melting into his character, a
man who doesn’t care if he’s liked or not. He cares about success, and it
matters to him how his product is perceived and received. But he doesn’t give a
damn about morale or whose toes get stepped on. He is, as he must have been in
real life, a very compelling person.

Fassbender is
ably supported by Kate Winslet, as his loyal but long-suffering marketing
director Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as the unappreciated Steve Wozniak, Jeff
Daniels as businessman John Sculley, Michael Stuhlbarg as the much-abused Andy
Hertzfeld, and Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan, Jobs’ onetime companion
and the mother of his purported child.

Jeff Daniels-Steve Jobs-680One cannot
really characterize this as a biopic, because it’s not. There is no attempt to
trace his story from cradle to grave. Instead, we get a pointed exploration of
a modern icon’s public and private life, told in bullet-points. Supporters of
Jobs have accused it of being too harsh and not giving him sufficient credit
for the great things he accomplished. Sorkin attempts to make up for this in
the concluding scenes, but the overall impression we’re left with is a man who
followed his destiny without regard for anyone else. Is it true? I have no way
of knowing. Is it a riveting and highly entertaining movie? Yes it is. 

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April 2024