Aaron Sorkin (Book by Walter Isaacson)
Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston
R for language.
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
If you’ve ever seen an Aaron Sorkin production, there’s a certain cadence to his dialogue that’s both thoroughly engaging and sometimes off-putting. Nowhere is this more evident than Danny Boyle’s look at the working relationships surrounding one of history’s leading technological innovators: Steve Jobs.
This triptych of Jobs’ life stars Michael Fassbender in an evocative performance as the abrasive and single-minded Jobs as he struggles to define himself and his successes through the myopic lens of his own capabilities. Set around three distinctive product launches, we’re brought from his self-centered collapse to his conniving re-positioning to his brilliant resurrection as a tech industry leader. It’s a structural dynamic that works far better than the conversations that make up the content.
The West Wing is one of the seminal television programs in history and that’s thanks to a diverse cast given excellent direction and scripts that pop both aurally and emotionally. It’s a series that exemplifies the absolute best in Sorkin’s capable contributions. The problem with Steve Jobs, and it’s a relatively minor one, is that we don’t get much rising and falling action. Everything is metered by Fassbender’s able delivery and stretched over the course of a long, but surprisingly quick, film. The dialogue is fascinating, engaging and entirely fictitious, which makes loving the film as a factual exploration of one man’s hubris a little difficult. The film is a compelling look at the self-centered genius of Jobs, but one that sometimes feels a bit too precious and succinct to feel realistic.
Kate Winslet as the only person who can take and temper Jobs’ egocentrism is wonderful in support as are Seth Rogen as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Michael Stuhlbarg as Apple engineer Andy Hertzfeld. Jeff Daniels does fine work as former Apple CEO John Sculley, but his character is too often presented as foil and voice of reason, sometimes simultaneously. He conveys Sorkin’s words with conviction, but he exemplifies the film’s struggles to create realism, embodying the same acerbic delivery he displayed on Sorkin’s The Newsroom, but without feeling grounded by noble intentions.
For those who fawn over Jobs and his achievements at Apple, this film will feel abrasive, abrupt, and overzealous. For his enemies, it won’t seem aggressive or harrowing enough. Finding that temperate balance between extremes gives those who aren’t as familiar with Jobs’ life and work an interesting, but sometimes too even-handed evocation of the iconic figure.
Steve Jobs tries a bit too hard to distill the man down into easily observable facts. It paints him entirely as a man of distinct vision who cannot fully connect with those around him. This portrait may not portray Jobs as the man his adoring fans want him to be, but it gets to the heart of his inability to connect with others, which humanizes him in ways that only a lengthy miniseries truly could do better.
September 14, 2020