Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels
As someone who was too young to remember the rise and fall of Steve Jobs in the 1980s, my perception of the man behind the iPod, iPhone, and those colorful desktop computers was one of a recluse with a poor taste in fashion. Rich in layers and pounding with effervescent dialogue, Danny Boyle's prestige flick Steve Jobs chooses to compartmentalize the life of technology's most interesting man.
Broken into three acts, Steve Jobs plays more like a theatrical ode to behavioral studies. Michael Fassbender fills the shoes of the man responsible for breathing excitement into the computer company we have grown to love, hate, and love again. Each act traces the steps of Jobs' professional and personal lives as he mingles in and out of confidence and lack-thereof. His estranged former lover (Katherine Waterston). His right hand motivator (Kate Winslet). His colleagues (Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg). In the moments before three of the most-memorable technological introductions, we see a man who demands respect just as fast as he displaces his honor.
Fassbender is intriguing in a role most recently portrayed by Ashton Kutcher. He looks the part and, perhaps, sounds the part. But, in the age of social personas and pop culture overdosage, it doesn't seem as if it's been long enough since the real Jobs' passing to effectively portray someone so engrained in our minds without it coming across a little too campy. For this alone, Steve Jobs becomes more about the product than the performances (save Winslet's awards-worthy performance).
The technical scope is the most fun part of the entire experience. Shot in three different types of film, to better serve and enhance the atmosphere of the eras on display, director Boyle utilizes some attributes found in his previous work while also giving a salute to the Apple we know of today.
Visually the picture is interesting. Stylistically, the picture is stunning. Obvious choices are made in celebrating the periods, including throwbacks to hair styles, clothing styles, and even architectural styles present thirty years ago. Even as we begin the third act, set in 1998, it's fun seeing Winslet chew her dialogue with an old Nokia phone in hand.
Speaking of the dialogue, the screenplay mastered by Aaron Sorkin is the key element here. It's almost as if any director could have been given this script and allowed it to do all of the work. Sorkin has such a genius way with conversational language that it becomes no problem that we're lingering in the same setting, with the same focus, listening for upwards of 10 minutes as two characters ride the word roller coaster given to them. It's not quite as fresh or surprising as The Social Network, but it does perfectly enhance an otherwise questionable premise.
Is Steve Jobs good? Yes. Is it great? Not quite. Despite all of its charm, there is a sameness to it that doesn't quite lift it above anything we've seen in recent years, on the big screen or on television. This could mostly be attributed to Sorkin's script, but I'd put the blame on Boyle. He's an exciting director that loves to put on a show, but here he feels stale and too safe.
Steve Jobs is smart enough to deserve a watch and will probably garner a handful of awards attention. It's not quite as culturally important as The Social Network, but it will do.
Runtime: 122 minutes