Steve Jobs full movie review - An insightful character study but maybe too talkative and ambitious for its own good...
Half a decade has passed since Steve Jobs' passing but he's as ubiquitous and significant in our lives than ever: we all have personal computers, we watch 3D animation, we have a stock of 500 songs fitting in our pockets, and we're all used to digital technology whether on tablets or cell-phones.
In other words, we all owe to Steve Jobs, and this is why he's regarded as one of the most defining pioneers and modern-day inventors of the last century, in the same vein than Edison, Ford or Disney.
(Granted Bill Gates was more successful, but he's always referred to as the richest man in the planet while Steve Jobs' star shines a little higher) Yet we're perfectly aware that the job wasn't done alone. But like all the best entrepreneurs, Jobs knew how to combine the talents of people who were lacking one thing, but the most crucial one: a vision. Jobs knew how to guide his teams toward one vision. And being a visionary genius is a double-edged sword and is liable to make you overlook the merits of your team workers, and earn you only respect by way of love or admiration.
Jobs' public image was of a revolutionary and inspirational pioneer but in private, lovability wasn't his strong suit? and this is what Danny Boyle's biographical film, based on Walter Isaacson's book, is about. As if he took for granted our knowledge of Steve Jobs' accomplishments, Boyle went for a disrupting, but oddly fascinating character study, structured into three acts, each one featuring the launch of one of Jobs' key products : the first mass-produced computer Apple MacIntosh in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988, designed for a more business-oriented target and the iMac G3 in 1998, which was adapting the computer industry with the Internet era.
Although the film features a few flashbacks, like the legendary garage starts, or Jobs' firing after the MacIntosh' failure, it really respects the three-act structure, each act ending before the presentations (so much for Aaron Sorkin's expected speeches). Still, why these three products, why the last two anyway? The film features Jobs in the most awkward and risky positions and it focuses on his failures maybe a little more than his successes, which, put with his private problems, doesn't leave much to appreciate in the man. But we follow the film, we try to grasp at least 75% of the dialogs, confident that such a well-acting cast can't lead us to a flop, and eventually, the film rewards our patience with an overwhelming finale.
Still, it was a risky move from Danny Boyle, even more, because one of the last screenplays written by Aaron Sorkin was the Oscar-winning "Social Network", and Mark Zuckerberg was a student in his 20's who revolutionized social media and became a billionaire in less than a decade. The appeal of such figures is the inspirational stuff great biopics are made of. The same goes for "Steve Jobs" but it's handled differently by Boyle, as the film is more about the man's darker side, and how it made him the man he was. It actually echoes "The Social Network" tag-line, showing you can't reach millions of people's lives without making a few enemies, but still, in its own way, the film gets a little depressing at times. Jobs don't have enemies, but it says something when you're not liked by the people who care the most about you, and, when most of the time, you act like a cocky bastard.
The trick is in Michael Fassbender's (Oscar-nominated) performance, he doesn't make Jobs likable, but makes us understand that this likability wasn't exactly the best driver to his success, it's a defense mechanism that actually betrays more vulnerability than strength. The trick is also to have his conscience incarnated by his faithful marketing executive and confidant, Joanna Hoffman, played by Kate Winslet, who never hesitates to openly disapprove his decisions and actions, and you can see in Winslet's nuanced performance (Oscar-nominated as well) the exhaustion of a no-nonsense woman who decided that her life would be dedicated to that arrogant prick because somewhat, that made sense. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), co-founder of Apple and John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), former CEO meet Jobs at these launches and vainly lure him into admitting his flaws and faults.
Still, Jobs' stubbornness is a fortress that takes almost two decades to be overcome.
The three-act structure is perfect in the way it allows the characters to evolve through a natural process, called maturation. It also allows some interesting dialogs moments that erupt from the whole computer jargon, like Jobs telling Wozniak that he might not have his engineering talent, but he's like the conductor of a symphony and Wozniak's a musician. Why doesn't he admit the merits of Apple II in his speech? Steve Jobs is turned to the future and can't afford any sentimentality. This sentimentality is conveyed by the core of the film, the issue over his daughter Lisa, to whom Jobs denies the paternity. This is the key to understand Jobs and his rude behavior, as his background didn't make him pleased by himself either, and the films' ending echoes "The Social Network" by a little wink to the beginning, when he bonded with little Lisa over the MacPaint.
And this is Jobs' story, a series of endings calling for new beginnings, a man who might have jeopardized his career because he didn't care for honors but maybe found unconscious reasons to improve himself, as if the quest for perfection had to call for some self-destruction. And it's like Boyle was inhabited by Jobs' spirit as he also take too many chances with that three-act format, and the result was a talkative character study that would've been perfect for a play, maybe "Steve Jobs" was a little too ambitious for its own good.