Monday, October 19, 2015

A Reel Review: STEVE JOBS

Danny Boyle’s STEVE JOBS is not the first film to try and crack the shell of Apple co-founder and innovator Steve Jobs, but it is the first to do so with a unique approach. Instead of following the age-old Hollywood template of birth, calling, rise, fall, rise-again, Boyle focuses on three significant events in the man’s life,  but while that seems a little limited on paper, those three events serve as a stage for some clever storytelling.

As Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) unveils his three major innovative creations in 1984, 1988, and 1998, he must deal with a host of personal issues including his ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), his daughter (played by Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss), his old boss John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), his former colleague Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), and his personal assistant Joanna (Kate Winslet).

STEVE JOBS is a film divided into three distinct parts, or acts, with each one serving as a significant event in Jobs’ life. Each act takes place backstage at the unveiling of the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXt home computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. During each of these elongated scenes, Jobs is confronted by his old girlfriend, friends, and colleagues over many issues…including Jobs’ reluctance to acknowledge his daughter, and to give into demands from his old co-workers. Every scene consists of Jobs trying to focus on his highly anticipated presentations to the world, all while being yelled at in 20 different directions from people who all seem to want something from him.

While there is a hint of contrivance in the air, the opportunity for exploring the man that was Steve Jobs is ripe. Director Danny Boyle, working from a script by Aaron Sorkin, uses every conflict to take a deeper look at Jobs, as the way he reacts to each person and problem winds up being very revealing. Flashbacks are used sparingly but effectively, and while Jobs may seem like an impossible man up front, he is instead portrayed as a complex and fascinating one, and there is never a dull moment in the film. There is a lot going on in every scene as Boyle and Sorkin explore themes of love, friendship, trust…and even better, the generation of ideas and how they can take over a person. STEVE JOBS may not portray events exactly how they happened in those specific years during those events, but it doesn’t matter…because the film serves as a clinic in writing and character.

Michael Fassbender is magnificent as Steve Jobs. At first glance he doesn’t quite look like the man we all knew, but after a short while we are sold. Every old mannerism and quirk from Jobs is brought back to life, and by the time Fassbender puts on the black turtleneck and blue-jeans, it’s tough to tell exactly who we’re looking at; the actor or the man himself. Seth Rogen puts in a ton of work as Jobs’ friend and co-founder of Apple and is very effective. It is the best and most grown-up work the funny fat-guy has ever done. As good as he is, Kate Winslet nearly steals the show, and Jeff Daniels and Katherine Waterston are also excellent. Jobs’ daughter is played by three different young actresses, all whom put in a great performance, and Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a great turn as an Apple tech.

By movie’s end, there is a lot that comes back around to make for a very satisfying and emotional wrap. STEVE JOBS is a very different film; innovative and bold…which is something that Jobs himself would have loved. Its commitment to a unique structure demands that liberties be taken, and the film often feels like a stage production, but that doesn’t matter because the entertainment value is high and the characters are just so darn fascinating. Simply put, it just works.


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