It is often stated that the line between insanity and genius is measured only by success. When discussion turns to that of one’s genius, we find it difficult not to equate that genius with some level of insanity. This is especially true when that discussion focuses on Steve Jobs, the man behind machines that allows us to hold the world in the palm of our hand. Steve Jobs is not simply a film, but is an experience of perception; of history; and of a household name.
When evaluating Steve Jobs the film, one has to stop and admire the genius of writer Aaron Sorkin. The Academy Award winner extends the parameters of his brilliance through a film that not only allows us an understanding of a complex mind, but accurately illustrates the torments, criticisms and neglect that shaped the man entrusted with its ownership. Based on Walter Isaacson’s non-fiction memoir, Sorkin’s script rockets off the tongues of the film’s talented cast and grabs your attention as you dance through every nuanced conflict of Jobs’ life. Daringly mimicking theatre in its three-piece act structure, the film presents the events of three major launches, and three very different pictures of Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), in real time.
The first, shot in low-resolution 16mm film, set in Cupertino, California, shows a grainy and young Jobs moments before his inaugural Macintosh in 1984, days after the infamous science fiction based Apple commercial. The second, showing the recently axed Jobs, in 1988 at the historical San Francisco Opera House before his infamously disastrous NeXT cube launch in widescreen 35mm film displays a vengeful and highly orchestrated Jobs. Finally, in 1998, returning to Apple, this time as CEO, utilising high-definition digital film at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall, before his presentation of the iMac. The last act presents to the audience the most human yet morally flawed version of a man no one ever really understood. Each scene, running close to thirty five minutes each, is as enthralling, entertaining and orchestrated as the next.
Jobs has always maintained a very muddled and misguided personal life; one that includes a young daughter Lisa with a college sweetheart Christen Brennan (Katherine Waterston), very uninspiring social skills as well as a knack for being referred to as unlovable. Sorkin’s script looks to answer one of the biggest questions plaguing the late great tech genius: can a great man still be a good man? Thanks to an electric script by the great Aaron Sorkin, phenomenal performances on all fronts, masterful direction and a brilliant neo-classical score by Daniel Pemberton, Steve Jobs is easily a crowning cinematic achievement and the best film of 2015, in spite of not being the most audience alluring film released this award season.
From the beginning, the film is a pish-posh of gossip and rumours. Not that anyone thought the film would bow down to the atrocious Ashton Kutcher vehicle Jobs in 2013, but the film did suffer a slew of “technical difficulties” going into production. Once in the hands of David Fincher, the film was always setup to be as great, if not greater than The Social Network. With Christian Bale initially cast, the film went through directors, stars and crew like a Daytona racetrack, eventually settling on director Danny Boyle, and stars Michael Fassbender and Daniel Pemberton instead of a roster that may very well have included Fincher, Bale, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Luckily for audiences, Steve Jobs is not an unwanted and pumped out studio biopic, and focuses less on the look of Jobs and more on the essence of a man struggling with himself more than the struggles of an economically competitive technological world.
While the film is presented in a very basic three act structure, there is nothing simple about the film. Driven by dialogue, its characters and three very crucial times in the life of Steve Jobs, the abstract delivery of these highly regarded singular events of the 20th century are presented with ease and class.
In a world where recognition is everything, and being pointed out in humiliation and failure could forever change your reputation professionally, Steve Jobs, logically speaking, had no right becoming a pioneer of technology. He was no engineer, designer or programmer, yet, the world knew his name and the ramifications of his brilliance. In one of the many powerful scenes of the film, when confronted by his cohort and early friend, Apple Co-Founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Seth Rogen) what he does. In response, Jobs says, “I play the orchestra!” Often times being measured next to Leonardo Da Vinci, Julius Ceasar and God himself, Jobs was often misconceived as a diabolical man with a plan, giving out the passes to whomever came in his way.
While many may be very discouraged to see the film, with fear that a biopic of a gifted tech guru would be overwhelmed with difficult tech-inspired lingo, the film is a well balanced feature showcasing moments of extreme drama, emotion and heart. Many of these scenes are anchored with Jobs by himself, the women in his life, father figure and late CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and friends. The emotions in the film hold together the very fine strains of intensity and drive the white-knuckled pace of the film overall.
Holding the very intimate moments of the film are the women in Steve Jobs; an old flame Chrisann, his daughter Lisa (played by Makenzie Moss at 5, Ripley Sobo at 9, and Perla Haney-Jardine at age 19) and the only person who ever stands up to Jobs, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). Sorkin, who has more than enough substance with his male leads, uses the women in Jobs’ life to draw out the kinks in the suit of amour Jobs so easily shows us, dealing with simple issues of patriarchy, ego, and image.
When it comes to great men, the greatest moments of their lives are measured by their flaws, of which there are no shortage when discussing the life of Steve Jobs. Played with ferocity and vigour, Michael Fassbender executes all of the necessary mannerisms and heartfelt expositions of a man whose hardest critic was himself. Fassbender delivers a tainted portrait of a man in high operatic fashion. Seductive, cunning, relentless and unabashed, Fassbender’s performance is nothing short of indefatigably alluring.
Sorkin’s script is nothing short of marvellous, and while every actor within the film is nothing short of spectacular, two of the stand-out performances next to that of Fassbender, are those of Rogen and Daniels, who also equally share two of the best scenes in the film. Vengeful and fiery, Daniel’s Sculley, who begins the first act a mentor, quickly turns into one of Jobs’ greatest nemesis. Playing behind an almost Dark Knight inspired score by the amazing Daniel Pemberton, Daniels’ experiences on Sorkin’s acclaimed and shortly lived The Newsroom allows him to banter and verbally spar with Fassbender’s Jobs on the fabulously public departure of Jobs from Apple within the second act in memorable fashion. Come the third act, Daniels’ Sulley is broken and defeated, and comes to Jobs with good intentions and hope. These scenes featuring Daniels’ alone is well worth the cost of admission, and ones that will hopefully give Daniels his first ever nomination within the supporting acting category.
Rogen, whose reputation as a comedian surpasses him, will surely be contested after Steve Jobs. Delivering one of the most engaging and passionate scenes within the films, in all three acts, Rogen seems to have taken the Jonah Hill route and should be considered more highly as a dramatic actor. His presence next to Fassbender in crucial scenes of discover, analysis and the fact that he plays the only friend Jobs has, shows the range of his skills and the decency of a man whom he knows all very well, yet one he feels is a persona, amplified from the greater corners of his mind. Rogen’s Woz shows the greatest invention Steve Jobs created, was himself.
Grand, engaging and utterly breathtaking from its first black and white frames of Arthur C. Clarke, Steve Jobs shows that there is no binary difference between a great, insightful and engaging film and a Hollywood production. Like shiny new Apple products, well-rounded, sleek and friendly, director Danny Boyle leaves all gimmicks and trickery behind in this film, abandoning flash for grainy, organic, symmetrical and sentimental direction, that allows his script and actors to showcase magnificently. In addition to the top notch headlining cast, make sure to keep an eye out for stellar performances from usually underrated character actors Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays the emotional and touchy programmer Andy Hertzfeld as well as John Ortiz, playing a journalist that was keen on shadowing Jobs during all of this big public unveilings.
The decency of a man is measured the moment Fassbender comes on the screen. Steve Jobs was a complicated character with issues ranging from fatherhood, visionary, artist and social hubris that are never really answered throughout the film. Yes, Steve Jobs the film seems to have a happy ending, foreshadowing the future of a world where the feelings of people may easily be described through acronyms via a personal communicating device. Yet, the film, with all its broken circuits and defective technical eqipuments allows us to look into ourselves and see the faulty wires, errors and failures within our own lives, and asks us to lead and take charge within ourselves. Steve Jobs is a renegade cinematic moment; a miracle film that asks filmmakers, people and artistic visionaries everywhere to think different, and it all begins with a simple, “hello”.
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Is Steve Jobs the crowing champion of 2015? Is Oscar gold in the future of Fassbender? Daniels? Winslet? Rogen? Will it be a box office smash or a critical success? Who is excited for this new take on the misunderstood genius? Leave your comments and thoughts below.