Title: Steve Jobs
Country: USA, UK
Genre: Biography, Drama
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
based on the book of Walter Isaacson
Music: Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography: Alwin H. Küchler
A biography feature of the late Steve Jobs, scripted by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, stretching from 1984 to 1998 and opens with Arthur C. Clarke’s prescient interview about a personal computer in 1974, the film cleverly encapsulates the stories into three acts, all set minutes before the product launches: in 1984, Apple Macintosh, in 1988, NeXT computer and in 1998, iMac. Such a decision constructively shuns from the common default of the biographic genre, that is, ponderously chronicling a tedious running account of (significant) events in our protagonist’s live, moreover, Boyle leavens the conflicts (both professional and personal) between Jobs (Fassbender) and various characters with Sorkin’s trenchant script, creates riveting theatrics which more inclines to BIRDMAN (2014) than THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010).
Admirably, this is no Jobs’ cheap hagiography, in the first act, the very first scene, his tremendous self-will has started to get under one’s skin, it is understandable gifted people might have conceit in themselves, but his egoistic and sadistic treatment towards Andy Hertzfeld (Stuhlbarg), a member of his team, is unapologetically offensive. Things are not helped by his flagrant denial of fatherhood to Lisa (played by Moss, Sobo and Haney-Jardine in 3 different ages), his daughter from ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Waterston), but what is the reason behind that denial? We might never know, although the film’s depiction of Chrisann as a brazen money-exacting might betray something information, at any rate, she is not a role-model mother either.
Other staples in the three acts (apart from Andy, Chrisann and Lisa) are Steve Wozniak (Rogen), his peer, co-founder of Apple, who is relentlessly begging Jobs to acknowledge the work of Apple II team in the launch, which Jobs unswervingly refuses simply because he is the conductor, and Apple II team is not a qualified musician in his orchestra deserves the plaudits, as plain as that. The next one is his boss John Sculley (Daniels), CEO of Apple from 1983 to 1993, whose rapport with Jobs experiences a big turning point after Jobs being fired from Apple after the unsuccessful launch of Macintosh, he is a quasi-father figure to Jobs, with specific flashbacks to emphasize the key incidents between them; and last but not the least, Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), the marketing executive who stands by him all along the journey, she is the only one who can put some senses into Jobs’ opinionated head, and becomes the bridge between him and others (friends or foes).
Engaging and sparkling rival show between Fassbender and his co-stars, without relying too much on physical resemblance, Fassbender’s Jobs is a flawed entrepreneur, a genius hampered by his personality, as he claims, he doesn’t care whether to be liked or disliked by people around him, his only aim is to do the right thing, to create revolutionary products in the digital era and in fact he succeeded. Fassbender beautifully instills into his character with this sort of unsympathetic self-regard and skepticism, he taunts religion with his remark about God sending his only son to be sacrificed, yet, in the third act, the warmth of a bonding father-and-daughter cosily rounds up a content ending, blissfully, there is a learning curve for him through these years. There is literally no bones to pick in his immaculate embodiment of such an iconic figure, Steve Jobs is a person after all, when all the halos are evaporated, he is not the man in the machine.
Winslet is gung-ho in her supporting turn, her Joanna completely orbits around Jobs and bespeaks of the purest friendship which a man and a woman can ever achieve, it is a heartening return to the accolades after years of nadir since her controversial Oscar win for THE READER (2008); Rogen and Daniels are also awards-worthy although apart from Fassbender and Winslet, the entire film (particularly Daniel Pemberton’s magnificent score and Sorkin’s dialogue-laden script) is under the radar of the past awards season after its disastrous box office performance last autumn.
Reality distortion field, a term coined to describe the mixture of Job’s personalities, which now has become a symbol of diehard loyalty for Apple’s products, which leads to a more existential question, why on earth we should be interested in Steve Jobs’ personal crisis? The far more inspiring and illuminating parts are how he brings Apple company to its unprecedented fruition against all the setbacks and how they develop their groundbreaking OS and alas, as competent as Sorkin and Boyle, these are the blind spots they cannot offer to present, and rarely any biographical movies do.