That sentiment perfectly sums up the Steve Jobs in the new film of the same title. I want to tread carefully here as I did not personally know Jobs, nor do I know anyone who did. There is no question that he was a brilliant, revolutionary mind and creator who, as he would certainly have us believe, single-handedly shaped the look of and our relationship with the technological world. Jobs’ world, according to STEVE JOBS, is one of perfection and control. Two things which are generally recognized as being impossible, a lot like Steve Jobs himself. And so, I tread cautiously here because we must, as we do with all ‘bio-pics,’ dissect the movie version Steve Jobs; the Jobs of Aaron Sorkin’s interpretation, Danny Boyle’s vision, and Michael Fassbender’s spirit. He may be very close to the true Steve Jobs. Or not. I’ll never know. I can assess only the movie, not the man, per se. But I will say with certainty that this Steve Jobs is a miserable, misanthropic, megalomaniacal son of a bitch.
The structure of STEVE JOBS is interesting and, on paper, a great idea. The film is broken into three ‘chapters’ so to speak, told in chronological order. Each chapter is the launch of a new seminal product from Jobs’ storied career. Each chapter is cleverly filmed by Director Boyle in three different formats: 16mm, 35 mm and finally digital. Screenwriter Sorkin and Boyle use the launches like the staging of an ancient Greek tragedy: One where all the critical ingredients of Jobs’ life come crashing together in a messy and potentially rancid stew. His ego-driven mono-vision careens his way through his probable offspring Lisa (played very well by three young actresses Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine), his perpetually furious and disgusted ex-girlfriend (Waterston), his consigliere Joanna Hoffman (played brilliantly by an almost unrecognizable Kate Winslet), one time Apple CEO John Sculley played by the omnipresent Jeff Daniels, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), and genius computer scientist with a heart Andy Herzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg).
The full cast of characters and hangers-on is far larger but this Greek chorus surrounding Jobs’ life at all times comprises the bulk of the film’s emotional content because Jobs himself has so little. Hoffman, Herzfeld and Wozniak orbit Jobs like a tinman, scarecrow, and lion to his big bad Oz. Jobs has tremendous emotional baggage, is brittle with resentment and blame, and exhibits all-around bad behavior, and while he does finally approximate some evolution and generosity of spirit, it’s too little too late.
I must give credit to Boyle for his deft handling of the film’s many perpetually moving parts and personalities. The film flows much like I assume Jobs’ mind did – quickly, furiously, and impatiently. One problem with the film, or at least this portrayal of Jobs, is that it’s hard to root for someone who is fundamentally hateful in every way except for his creations. You can be inspired by and fall in love with someone’s art, and hate the artist. If we wanted to examine his inventions and innovations we don’t necessarily need a whole lot of Jobs to do it well. Why we want to spend 122 minutes with this Jobs is what I haven’t quite figured out. He does not evoke our sympathy, nor does he, as a visionary, compel or inspire. No doubt the real Steve Jobs must have had some quality which could elicit the extraordinary devotion he earned from Hoffman and others, but here there’s none.
Fassbender yields no nuance nor depth, but rather is a narrow, one track road leading to a magical kingdom only he can see, and his performance is conspicuous in its absences. Seth Rogen as Wozniak does a good job and gives the film’s most meaningful and poignant speech. Another potentially pivotal scene between Hoffman and Jobs regarding an emotionally charged situation with his daughter should have been powerful and moving but comes off as trite and annoying. Stuhlbarg is always good and this role seems to come easy to him. He even looks a good deal like the real Herzberg.
As good an idea as the three chapter format may have looked on paper, it is in practice claustrophobic, repetitive and tiresome. Brief flashbacks of young Jobs and Wozniak in the primordial Apple garage made me long for more of the first creative spark, the genesis of what they gave birth to, and we don’t get it. It is, for lack of a better metaphor, like a band’s first perfect album that fascinates and makes us fall in with them, but the subsequent recordings never come close. And so STEVE JOBS misses the mark. Boyle hints at what drives Jobs and makes him tick, but doesn’t go for the jugular. The editing and pace of the film is frantic and ‘ADD,’ and while that serves an artistic purpose – form following function – it is exhausting. We end up being drawn to and wanting to know more about the those around Jobs than the man himself. At least they all have a heart.(2.5 / 5)
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, Katherine Waterson, Jeff Daniels
Running Time: 122 minutes
Steve Jobs Movie Review