How do you explain one of the most influential and yet enigmatic men of the 20th century? Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is a man whose vision and innovation has impacted the daily life of more people on the globe than anyone else in the past fifty years. Jobs didn’t simply invent products. He changed the way we interface with our computer, how we enjoy our music, and how we communicate with each other. More than anything else, Jobs turned an industry of functional products into popular fashion and devices that consumers can’t live without.
But for all he contributed to popular culture, there is so much we still don’t know about the man who was Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, Danny Boyle‘s new biopic film doesn’t offer much by way of answers or resolution.
Steve Jobs offers us a behind the curtain look at the man who invented Apple and changed the computer industry forever. The movie is literally a “behind the curtain” look as all of the action takes place before product launch events — first in 1984 for Macintosh, then 1988 for Next, and finally in 1998 for the iMac. It’s clear that Boyle is trying to give his film an authentic, almost documentary, feel by framing the context of the action around the behind the scenes action of these very public events. While this approach is effective in pulling the viewer into the thrust of Jobs’ complicated relationships with those closest to him, it might ultimately have been limiting in providing a complete story arc.
Throughout nearly all of the film, we see Jobs (Michael Fassbender) as a tormented soul who copes with his own demons by being the Devil to those around him. Boyle does an admirable job of capturing his celebrity status (both with the public and with his own employees). One of the real tragedies is that those who knew him best seem to fear him more than love him. He can be as mesmerizing as he is revolting in equal measure. Signs of his brilliance pull you in only to be interrupted by fits of rage and an emotional coolness that it is unsettling. In the end, Jobs is portrayed as someone who didn’t realize how much he kept others out, and yet remarkably expected nothing more.
Fassbender gives a career performance and will most certainly garner Academy Award consideration. His embodiment of the troubled genius who straddles between mega egomaniac and nakedly insecure is fantastic. The film is driven by dialogue with long, uninterrupted shots that give the entire production a certain theater quality. At times, the film reminded me of last year’s Birdman (albeit there are not nearly as many attempts at satire). This is Fassbender’s film to carry and he does carry it.
Seth Rogen plays a vital role as Jobs dear friend and co-founder, Steve Wozniak. “Woz,” as he’s referred to throughout, is a bushy-haired, bearded, junk food loving computer nerd who provides the technical knowledge to balance Jobs’ unchecked vision. Where Jobs keeps his head in the clouds and is forever the dreamer, Woz is much more grounded in the daily realities. This is demonstrated best when discussing job layoffs at Apple which seem to have no effect on Jobs. Fassbender portrays him as aloof and indifferent to the loss of thousands of jobs. Woz finally takes it as an offense and speaks up, not only for himself but for every little guy that the tyrannic Jobs has stepped on along the way. It paints quite a contrasting portrait where both men come away looking sad and disappointed in each other.
Much has been made about how accurate the film is to the real man and his life. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has admitted to taking certain liberties and using the action of the film as more of a “dramatisation of personal conflicts” within Steve Jobs. In other words, aside from the actual product launches, the conversations and confrontations that make up 90% of the film never really happened. The conflicts may or may not have been valid, but the conversations are completely made up.
While much of the content of the story is “fiction”, the film has received an endorsement from at least one important voice. The real life Steve Wozniak shared with Bloomberg that the film does an excellent job of capturing the essence of Apple and the brilliance of Jobs. He admits he’s seen the film three times.
Knowing this may bother some viewers. This is not a literal retelling of events in the life of Steve Jobs. As if Danny Boyle was trying to tell us this very thing, little Lisa makes a picture using MacPaint early in the film before telling her dad that its “abstract.”
Yes dear, and so is the story being told by Boyle and Sorkin.
Like abstract works of art, this film is open to many interpretations. Which is fine except the viewer is left with an incomplete story arc. In the end, there are so many questions that were still unanswered that you may leave feeling like even after two hours you never really saw Steve Jobs. Maybe that’s the point, the enigmatic genius remains a mystery.
However, the end product feels incomplete. Fifteens years (1984-1998) of Jobs life is covered and yet what happened in his decade of life. How did his relationship with Lisa evolve (if it did)? Did he ever reconcile other conflicts and emotional baggage in his life? Boyle and Sorkin don’t answer that for us or even really give us much of a clue. The story starts with Jobs on a professional peak and ends back on peak … but the heart of the film is not about his professional success. His personal conflicts are the admitted focus of the film and yet those same conflicts are left unresolved. While a Hollywood happy ending is not necessary, the abruptness of the end is unsettling and frustrating.
In the end, the film is very engaging because there is so much we don’t know about a man who was so influential to so many of us. Fassbender successfully wets our appetite for more insight into the man. We get a peak but only a peak … and maybe that’s all we’ll ever get.
New Steve Jobs Images Show Off The Film’s BTS Theory
It's almost October 9th, which is when we find out if you can throw everything into a film and get... more >
CastMichael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
SynopsisSet backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter.