Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Steve Jobs

Wow! (Yeah, it’s been a while)

I just watched Steve Jobs in Toronto with two friends. After the film, my friends talked about how hard it was to get into the film. They found the first thirty minutes quite boring and they found the flashbacks which occur throughout the film confusing and off-putting. They still enjoyed the film, but didn’t think it was anything special.

I experienced something entirely different in my viewing of Steve Jobs. As usual (ideally, anyway), I knew next to nothing about the film and had forgotten the little I did know (including the initial reason I couldn’t wait for the film’s release). Thanks to the way the opening credits are shown alongside the opening scenes of the film, I also managed to completely miss those.

I could not have been less bored during the first thirty minutes of Steve Jobs. I was riveted from the first few seconds on, caught up in the brilliantly-written dialogue, the fantastic score and the wonderful camera movement. 

To my embarrassment, it was not until I was nearing the end of those first thirty minutes that my mind started to process what I was watching. At that point, I was thinking: ‘Wow, this is a brilliantly-written film! It reminds me of … oh, yeah, now I remember, this IS written by Aaron Sorkin (based on the book by Walter Isaacson), my all-time favourite TV writer (who has also done well in his films). 

Steve Jobs, directed by Danny Boyle, stars Michael Fassbender as the man behind the MacBook Pro I am currently using to write this review. Seth Rogan plays Steve Wozniack, Jobs’ friend and collaborator who created the first Apple computers and changed the future of computing. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Andy Hertzfeld, another computer developer who worked for Apple. Kate Winslet is Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ long-suffering marketing chief. Jeff Daniels is John Scully, the man who gave Jobs the chance and became the first CEO of Apple. Katherine Waterston is Chrisann Brennan, seen primarily as the mother of Jobs’ daughter Lisa. 

Steve Jobs has a unique and fascinating structure that virtually guarantees that the film takes some serious liberties with the true events upon which it is based and that this is no ordinary biopic. But, as I hinted above, I thought it was a brilliant idea: telling the story of Jobs in three acts (each taking place in a short time frame), to coincide with critical product launches in 1984, 1988 and 1998 (which is when Jobs really took off). Pieces of Jobs’ story that took place prior to 1984 or between launches are shown in flashbacks which are delicately interwoven into the dialogue (i.e. one or two lines of ‘present-day’ dialogue followed by a few seconds of flashback dialogue followed by ‘present-day’ dialogue, etc.). I can understand why some might find these flashback scenes confusing, and maybe this feature accounts for the fact that the masses don’t like Steve Jobs as much as the critics do, but I loved it. 

Steve Jobs may not be an accurate or plausible biography of Steve Jobs, but if we set aside any need for accuracy or plausibility, the film works beautifully even as a fictional account of a genius obsessed with his vision for the future who begins to realize only too late what he has missed along the way (despite the foreshadowing provided by the young Lisa). In many ways, the relationship between Jobs and his daughter forms the heart of the film. This is no doubt entirely unrealistic, but the story worked for me.

The acting in Steve Jobs is phenomenal. Fassbender, one of the best out there, conveys with his eyes every emotion Jobs is experiencing (I’m expecting an Oscar nomination). Daniels is much better here than he was in The Martian, Stuhlbarg continues to impress me, Rogen is perfectly cast and has never been better, and the almost unrecognizable Winslet is amazing as the woman who tries singlehandedly to help the demanding and often unreasonable Jobs do the right thing and become a better person. Marvellous stuff!

Does the film flag a bit as it wears on after the first act and then tack on an unbelievable Hollywood ending? Sure. Does it provide us with an intimate portrayal of the real Steve Jobs? Not a chance. Do I forgive Steve Jobs for these flaws? I do! Steve Jobs gets an easy **** and will be high in my top ten films of 2015, proving, thanks to the presence of the inimitable Aaron Sorkin, that Hollywood can still make great films. My mug is up and the brew inside is delicious. 

I’m thinking I may have to travel to Toronto to watch films. I have now watched two of my favourite five films of 2015 in Toronto (the other one was Leviathan, which I watched with Gareth in February). 


  1. OK, here are my problems with this film: 1) It would be hard to be more bored by a topic than a biopic of Steve Jobs. 2) The only glimmer of hope that this would be worth watching would be the line about how he "begins to realize only too late what he has missed along the way" but the problem with this is that there is not a chance that even with this film he will be remembered in this way, 3) The only way that #2 could make this worth watching is if it is, in fact, true (fiction only works when it is fiction not when it is pretending to be factual about known people). However, the combination of Sorkin and good actors (and your review) means there is a chance I will watch this. And I will have an open mind, even if I do not have an open mind toward Apple products in general.

  2. I can see myself once having such thoughts - before the purchase of my first aluminum MacBook Pro. You, too, can find the path to enlightenment and computer serenity if only you would let go and join us, before it's too late.

  3. Must resist... I feel the pull... (not)