#REVIEW: “STEVE JOBS”
Review by Siobhán Finn for Mr. Will Wong
(In the interest of full disclosure, prior to working on this review an iPhone 6 was silenced, an iPod Classic was set to shuffle in its iHome, and a Macbook was booted up.)
Readers, Torontonians, countrymen lend me your ears; director Danny Boyle comes to bury Steve Jobs, not to praise him. Indeed Boyle’s latest Film doesn’t shy away from highlighting the flaws of its titular character and in doing so shines a light on the man often overlooked in favour of the legend.
The structure of the Film is told in three somewhat formulaic parts, each taking place backstage prior to different product launches. It opens in 1984 days after the infamous Super Bowl ad aired and minutes before the launch of Apple’s Lisa computer. The Movie then moves to 1988 and the moments leading up to Jobs’ launch of NeXT’s doomed black cube. In its final chapter, Steve Jobs finds itself in 1998 with the titular character once again employed by Apple and preparing to launch the iMac.
In each chapter Michael Fassbender’s Jobs has conversations with marketing manager Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Apple engineer Andy Hertzfelt (Michael Stuhlbarg), journalist Joel Pforzheimer (John Ortiz), daughter Lisa, and Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Seth Rogen). The repetitive structure only serves to underline the one-dimensional desires of each character: no matter the era ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterson) wants money, Lisa wants her father’s love, Woz wants the credit he feels he’s due, Andy wants respect, and father figure Sculley wants a legacy. The lack of character development among these secondary players undermines otherwise impressive performances.
If Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal in 2013’s jObs was a studied imitation then Fassbender’s is a nuanced study of the man bringing to life more than a megalomaniac seeking affirmation from an adoring public but also the quiet moments of indecision when friendships rather than business are on the line.
The passage of time is perhaps best marked through the hair and costumes of Kate Winslet’s Joanna Hoffman. Armed with an ever-changing Polish accent, Winslet manages to breathe life into a character whose main purpose appears to be wrangling a man who demanded everything be on time yet refused to be held to a schedule.
Steve Wozniak consulted on the script so perhaps it is no surprise that one of the Film’s most unexpected performances came from Seth Rogen. Demonstrating a subtlety he is not otherwise known for, Rogen breathes life into the portrayal of a character who, even when he is confronting Steve Jobs, still longs to be one of the popular kids.
People will debate the accuracy of Aaron Sorkin’s script in the months to come but the Social Network scribe’s ability to deftly tease out scenes with acerbic witticisms and thinly veiled hubris cannot be denied. “God sent His only son on a suicide mission but we like Him anyways because He gave us trees,” argues Fassbender’s Jobs in a scene in the Movie’s first section.
In the world Sorkin and Boyle have created, Steve Jobs’ continued inability to be a good father serves as Apple inspiration rather than simply negligence. And he’s not a control freak to be cruel but rather as a reaction to being adopted as a child.
As it was with Caesar, Boyle reminds us that while Steve Jobs’ flaws are well documented and numerous, without him our music, phones, homes, and even our lives wouldn’t be the same.
Steve Jobs opens in limited release at Varsity Cinema this Friday, October 16, 2015 and wide on Friday, October 23, 2015.