This is a difficult movie to review for two reasons. 1.) The past Jobs film was so recent that it’s hard not to compare the two and 2.) that this movie has such a style to it that some viewers may find brilliant and others alienating and stale. I’m going to do my best to give you my perspective, knowing full well that some of you may disagree completely.
Michael Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs, famous entrepreneur and co-creator of Apple. This movie takes place in three moments, leading up to three different presentations that he gave that shaped his career. He is joined by his co-creator Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), the CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and his daughter Lisa (played by three different actresses).
The movie is directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Billionaire, 127 Hours) and written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball).
Let’s start with Michael Fassbender, who is obviously the focus of this film. I’m most familiar with his work in X-Men, but his roles in films like Prometheus and Frank also stand out as stellar examples of his range. Here, he completely embodies a new persona, one that is both a genius and socially inept. He is witty and charismatic as Jobs but Sorkin’s dialogue gives you great little moments that reveal how oblivious and (maybe even sometimes intentionally) hurtful he is. Fassbender even looks like Jobs, especially in the final act of the film, with the trademark jeans and black sweater.
Kate Winslet also delivered an incredible performance, as did Seth Rogen. The young girls who played Steve’s daughter Lisa also did a very good job as well.
The star of the movie that people might overlook is really Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter. He’s known for his quick-paced and witty dialogue, especially in films like The Social Network and TV shows like The West Wing and The Newsroom. Here, the most mundane scenes of two people talking turn into completely engaging and enthralling conversations. They feel real and authentic, like you’re a fly on the wall in these intimate moments.
Visually, director Danny Boyle also does a stellar job. The dialogue scenes dwell long and don’t cut, while he also manages to create quick-paced and spastic cuts in other portions of the film. The sequences between the three acts are beautifully done, mixing montages of real-life footage with new footage created with our actors. He plays with depth of field in creative ways and finds ways to make even normal dialogue scenes seem engaging visually. Cinematographer Alwin H. Kuchler likely deserves some of this credit.
I also appreciated the evolution of this film. The first third is shot in 16mm to resemble old grainy video footage of the time, while the second act evolved to 35mm. The last act was shot in digital high-definition. The music also evolves, starting with very basic computer sounds as a background and evolving into more current electronica undertones.
What doesn’t work?
Here’s where the comparison to Ashton Kutcher’s Jobs comes in. Jobs told the entirety of the story, from beginning to end (almost). If you want that, that movie did it. However, because of that, Jobs felt rushed, superficial, and ended up failing to be an engaging story. Steve Jobs goes the complete opposite route, instead skipping some of the core moments and really focusing in-depth on just a few times in his life. Some of these gaps are filled with flashbacks, but those of you that don’t really know what Jobs’ story was might be a little confused. This movie might rely a little too heavily on our collective knowledge of the Steve Jobs story already.
Also, the long banter-filled dialogue scenes definitely slow the progress of the plot, as there isn’t really much of a plot, and some viewers may get bored or frustrated with the lack of forward momentum. Character? Yes. Humor? Yes. Story? Minimal. I appreciated the unique take but mainstream audiences might not do the same.
I found Steve Jobs to be refreshing, combining Danny Boyle’s visual flair with Aaron Sorkin’s nonstop witty dialogue. The star of the show is undoubtedly Michael Fassbender, delivering an incredible performance, complimented greatly by both Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen. If you appreciate the dialogue and character moments, you’ll likely love this film, but those of you wanting constant forward motion may find it slow and uneventful. You also miss key important moments of his life that might help you understand this story, so if you’re confused at all by the plot, that’s likely why. Overall though, Steve Jobs was engaging, incredibly refreshing, and possibly a contender for an Oscar nomination for Fassbender.