Steve Jobs was a baffling flop when it appeared in US cinemas late last year. And that’s a shame, because Jobs is an engrossing and unique take on a biopic with a killer script and cast. Its well worth your attention.
Steve Jobs is directed by Danny Boyle and stars Michael Fassbender as the titular titan as the film takes us behind the scenes at three separate product launches. Through three snapshots of different times in Jobs’ life, the film attempts to not only create an image of the tech legend, but also to show how he progressed (and didn’t progress) from 1984 to 1998. First off, the screenplay feels like it was written for the stage – which is awesome. The entire film is build on exchanges between characters, and because the dialogue and characterisation is so good, it works perfectly. The screenplay comes from the mind of Aaron Sorkin, one of the greatest screenwriters in the world right now and the writer of other biopics like The Social Network and Moneyball. Honestly, the man is a genius. Not only has he discovered an inventive way to make a biopic, it also has the effect of making Steve Jobs extremely unique. Nothing I have ever seen has the same tone and design as Jobs and I highly respect that originality. Its just impressive. Damn impressive.
The cast also all rises to the challenge of Sorkin’s screenplay. As usual, it involves lots of fast witty exchanges between characters and the likes of Fassbender, Jeff Daniels, Kate Winslett, Seth Rogen and Katherine Waterson are all in top form. Obviously Fassbender is the centre, but its more his relationships and exchanges with other characters that make the actor soar. He still delivers an impressive performance (even though he doesn’t look much like Jobs, which is sometimes jarring) but I personally think he’s outshone by his supporting cast. Kate Winslett plays Joanna Hoffman, Jobs assistant, and delivers a multifaceted performance that takes full advantage of the three separate time periods to show many aspects of her character. Her rapport and exchanges with Fassbender is arguably the best relationship in a film full of incredible interactions. However, Jeff Daniels offers a worthy challenge to that title as Apple’s CEO John Sculley. Daniels brings an authority and dignity to his role and has several electrifying scenes with Fassbender. But the one guy who seriously impressed me was surprisingly Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak. For a man known for his funny business, this role indicates he may be edging into the dramatic in the same way Jim Carrey did in the late 90s/early 2000s. And just like Carrey at that time in his career, Rogen is damn impressive. His character, Wozniak, is a linchpin for Jobs’ narrative and acts as a nervous, subtle parallel to Job’s bold personality. If this is the start of a renaissance for Rogen into dramatic roles, I welcome it with arms wide open.
There is one issue regarding the characters that I struggle with – Job’s relationship with his daughter and former lover. Its a significant part of the narrative and while it isn’t poorly done, it does build to a crescendo that feels too predictable and overt for Jobs’ inventive screenplay. Katherine Waterson does well as Jobs’ disgruntled former lover Chrisann Brennan but her interactions with him doesn’t hold a candle to any of the other relationships. The actress for the daughter changes for each time period, which makes it impressive that the audience still manages to connect with her. But her and her mother just takes too much narrative time, which distracts from the better parts of Steve Jobs. Its not particularly a flaw, but its just not at the level of the rest of the film.
Another thing I feel conflicted about Steve Jobs is Boyle’s direction. His angle on the screenplay mixes in modern influences and cross-cutting with classical music and architecture. Its flashy and done well, but can get very distracting. The best part of Jobs is its characters and dialogue and when the direction draws attention away from that, it becomes a problem. Several scenes and transitions in particular are disturbed by Boyle’s constant need for cross-cuts and fast camera angles almost to the point that its disorienting. For the most part his directing works well, but when it gets overt, its too noticeable.
Steve Jobs is an impressive and unique biopic that melds an inventive screenplay with inspiring performances and biting dialogue. Boyle may have needed to rein in on his direction, but overall anyone interested in a fascinating man or just looking for a unique experience, Steve Jobs is well worth booting up.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended