Steve Jobs (2015)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Look at any one of Picasso’s abstract portraits.
Did some critics revile him for using perfect triangles to create a nose? Or for making a pair of eyes asymmetrical? Probably. Did it stop him from doing it again? Of course not. So why would criticism stop an artist like Steve Jobs from creating what he considered to be the perfect personal computer? And why should it stop an artist like Aaron Sorkin from writing a brilliant movie like “Steve Jobs,” even if he took liberties with the facts?
Checking in on Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender, staring Oscar in its golden face) at product launches for the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998, we see a small glimpse of what it’s like to be the controversial tech pioneer. Whether it’s engineer Andy Herzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) encountering a problem with a demo, Jobs’ high school girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) finding her way backstage with their daughter, Lisa (who Jobs initially denies as his own), or Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels) and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) bringing up their own concerns…it’s not easy being Steve Jobs. But it’s the constant presence of marketing director Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) that was always able to calm Jobs and injecting with a semblance of reason.
Aaron Sorkin has a magic touch that gives any film he writes a fresh, fast-paced energy. He’s to blame for any inaccuracies when transcribing the life story of Steve Jobs—if it is indeed blame, and not credit, that you want to give. The Macintosh might have been soft and user-friendly, per Jobs’ request, but the man himself was rough around the edges. That has been shown countless times. Nobody doubts that. Neither does anybody doubt the man’s genius and success. Sorkin shows us both sides. Personally, I came away loving Steve Jobs, despite the negatives. I think that’s partly a testament to Sorkin’s script. Back in 2011, Sorkin’s “Moneyball” script got comedian Jonah Hill his first Oscar nomination. Could he do the same for Seth Rogen this year? Rogen shows a side of himself—a side of his career—that we haven’t seen until now. He talked to Steve Wozniak and studied him in excess. The dedication pays off. Jeff Daniels has always looked good in Sorkin. Three seasons of “The Newsroom” showed us that. And Kate Winslet gives her best work in over half a decade, if not longer. But clearly it’s Michael Fassbender who deserves the most praise. The whole ensemble works together effortlessly, but it’s Fassbender who gives “Steve Jobs” its spark. He may not look exactly like Jobs, but he perfectly encapsulates the complicated man beneath the turtleneck and rimless glasses. He’s on my shortlist for an Oscar nomination, at least so far. If we’ve even seen five worthy contenders so far, he’s certainly among them. The whole ensemble serves as a sort of orchestra, conducted by veteran director Danny Boyle and arranged by Aaron Sorkin. It takes the whole lot of them to perform such a brilliant symphony, but it’s the virtuosic Michael Fassbender that makes it come alive.
“Steve Jobs” is as revolutionary as anything Apple has released. The chapter-like format allows for Jobs to grow as a character throughout fourteen years, and short segues fill us in on what we missed in the year’s between the scenes we’re shown. It works tremendously well. If there’s even a shred of accuracy, “Steve Jobs” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Sorkin’s script is the best I’ve seen all year, regardless of its whole truth. Some of art history’s best portraits have been abstract. This is just another example.