Who am I? I feel like I have been giving a lot of positive reviews recently. Maybe that is because there really have been so many good movies released this year, or maybe I am becoming more generous as Oscar season exhaustion ramps up – I am usually out late at the theater 3-4 nights a week (first world problems, I know). But I think I can honestly say that Danny Boyle’s new film STEVE JOBS is well worth the hype surrounding it. This is not my exhaustion talking. With such a brilliant combination of the best acting, writing, cinematography and score, it is easy to see that this is one of the best films of the year. We think we already know Steve Jobs; after all, we carry a piece of him around in our pockets every day through the guise of the iPhone. But this film invites us to look behind the curtain and catch a small glimpse of what he had to do to become the world-changing innovator we know (and mostly respect) today.
Aaron Sorkin’s masterful script is delivered in three distinct acts. Each act focuses on the minutes leading up to a huge product announcement and keynote address from Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender). The first act, which is filmed on 16mm, takes place in 1984 with the launch of the LISA. The second act takes place in 1988 and is filmed on 35mm. However, Jobs is not at Apple anymore. He is at NEXT, and is working to get back to Apple. The final act, which is shot digitally, presents the 1998 launch of the colorful iMac.
Throughout the film, you feel like a (very fortunate) fly on the wall as you watch Jobs develop a relationship with his daughter, make his employees – especially Andy – feel the brunt of his perfectionism, and deal with the ghosts in his own closet. The mainstays through each act are Jobs’ difficult personality, his daughter Lisa, and the support, side-eye, and loving condemnation (FIX IT!) of his stalwart, trustworthy employee Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). Although there is definite artistic interpretation and dramatic license taken, the film shines a light on the man behind the biggest consumer technological advances of the 20th century. No, the drama that takes place did not actually happen minutes before his most important product launches. However, this plot device is an interesting way to highlight some of the biggest conflicts in Jobs’ life, contrasting high-profile moments of his career with his biggest personal insecurities.
Although Sorkin’s script is arguably the star of the film, it took performances from Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels to bring his words to life. The cast ensures Sorkin’s dialogue feels real and spontaneous, instead of lines on a page. I know that is the job of an actor, but the fact that these actors memorized over 180 pages of intense dialogue, yet still had to deliver them as if they were off-the-cuff, is a lot more difficult than it looks. Since this film is not a huge ensemble like THE WEST WING, a lot of pressure was put on the shoulders of Fassbender and Winslet and you would never know based on their performances. While the actors may not look like their real-life counterparts, that fact is forgotten within a second of the start of the film. Yes, these are certainly Award-caliber performances, but it is so much more than that.
What he lacks in similar looks, Fassbender makes up for in his performance, being as quick, brilliant, and no-nonsense as Steve himself. Maybe the fact that Fassbender doesn’t resemble Jobs helps subconsciously emphasize that this story is not a biopic and isn’t trying to be. Fassbender is not doing an impression of Jobs, but is instead embodying his spirit and fire, which is a lot more palatable to me than an impression. Even when Steve is at his worst, Fassbender still makes the character likable; there is always a sparkle in his eyes that lets on that Steve may think he is hiding his emotions, but perhaps the problem is that he feels too much. He feels too much about the fact that he was adopted, is an absentee father to his own daughter, and that he is a salesman and not the brain actually creating the products (like Woz).
Winslet once again proves she is one of the greatest actresses working today, changing from her typical silky British accent to one with an Armenian mixed with Polish mixed with American flair. Yes, she somehow managed to memorize pages and pages of dialogue, all while doing a crazy hybrid (yet not distracting) accent. In an interview, Winslet said the real Joanna had a more shrill voice, so she wanted to make hers more palatable to audience member’s ears for a 2+ hour film. Those are the choices that set her apart from the rest. Her Joanna is the heart and anchor of the film, bringing Steve back from the edge more than once and showing the audience that he does have a soft side (even during his most difficult times, such as denying the existence of his daughter). Fassbender’s performance does not exist without Winslet; as is apparent through the performances (and the interviews done with Fassbender) he relied on her strength as much as Steve relied on Joanna.
Just like its namesake, the ambitiously filmed STEVE JOBS will be talked about for a long time to come, especially when it comes to the upcoming Awards’ season. When it comes to movies involving Kate Winslet, I am unabashedly biased. My inner fangirl cannot be contained. But I can (somewhat) objectively say that STEVE JOBS is an intelligently written, well-acted powerhouse that will appeal to Apple devotees as well as those still rocking a flip phone. This film is exactly the film I can see Jobs himself being happy with – a perfectionist’s dream that utilizes all aspects of cinematic technology and directing prowess to celebrate both the brilliance and flaws of one of the greatest innovators of all time. “Your products are better than you are,” another character says to Steve. “That’s the point,” Jobs replies.
My Review: A