A portrait of Apple founder Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) the man at the epicenter of the digital revolution. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. (Based on a true story)
Review by Louise Keller:
It seems apt that Danny Boyle's film about the impossibly brilliant Steve Jobs does not follow traditional storytelling, but through three pivotal product launches captures the essence of the man: demanding, difficult, egotistical, cruel. If you are expecting a narrative that chronologically canvasses the rise, fall and rise of Jobs, you will be surprised. Boyle's film is much better than that, offering us an extraordinary insight of the man himself. It's almost like being there. The film's conceit is that we already know what makes Jobs a visionary; this is an exploration of his flawed personality, brutal treatment of those around him and his Achilles heel, his daughter Lisa.
Based on a book by Walter Isaacson, Aaron Sorkin's brilliant screenplay feels like a hyperactive backstage expose in which the key players in Jobs' life are the constant, as his provocative nature, self-importance and intolerance for everyone around him are revealed. It is easy to see where the term 'reality distortion field' originated. The film steams ahead a million miles an hour - or should I say at 100 megabits per second - and if every historic milestone is not crystal clear, the overall impression of the man certainly is. As for Michael Fassbender, he can do no wrong: his portrayal of Steve Jobs is formidable.
The film begins in 1984 immediately prior to the Macintosh launch, where a meltdown is taking place. The relationships are hostile. System software developer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) is under the gun to fix the problematic voice demo to make the computer say 'hello'. He is threatened with humiliation. Technical whizz Steve Wozniak (Wozz, superbly played by Seth Rogen) asks for public acknowledgment for the fundamental Apple 2 team. With the patience of a saint, marketing queen Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, excellent) asks Jobs to manage rather than fan expectations. Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) opens Pandora's box as he touches on Job' rejection issues emanating from his adoption as a child. When Sculley opens a bottle of '55 Margaux backstage, is it to celebrate or reassure? Most cutting and telling are the confrontation between Jobs and his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) concerning 5 year old Lisa (Makenzie Moss). It's about money and paternity and it's ugly.
Historical facts are offered as fleeting snapshots; the film does not try to document everything but concentrates on the personalities and relationships. There is no mention of Jobs' cancer or illness, but there are further revelations and meltdowns at the 1988 'black cube' launch after he is fired from Apple and the final iMac launch in 1998. All the key characters are there, appearing at the worst possible time. Along with the demons of the past, more light is thrown on sordid behaviour from years gone by. This is a man who is indifferent to being disliked. Recriminations continue. I love Jobs' grandiose self-comparison to that of an orchestra conductor; the people around him are the musicians playing the instruments.
The heart of the film lies in the troubled relationship between Jobs and his daughter Lisa (played by Perla Haney-Jardin, aged 19). It is only in their final showdown in an outdoor carpark that we glimpse a tiny piece of humanity in Jobs, whose previous behaviour has been utterly monstrous.
Boyle's film is ambitious and stimulating as it encapsulates the essence of Steve Jobs visionary, innovator and flawed human being for whom the word compromise does not exist.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Far more complex than most fictional characters, Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is written as a baddie for most of the film's running time, in the way he treats people and behaves badly. His only excuse is that he's the conductor of an orchestra that is making history. But the writers - both of the book and the adapted screenplay - seem to be suggesting that the ends don't justify the means. As his long time collaborator, co-inventor of the personal computer and once best friend Andy Wozniak (Seth Rogen) tells him after their final and public bust-up, "It is not binary; you can be decent AND gifted." He might well have said "You SHOULD be decent AND gifted ..."
Rogen's is a wonderfully and painfully profound characterisation of a man who has been at Jobs' side for almost two decades - despite not really liking him. And he's not alone. The only person who does actually like him, even love him in an unromantic way, is the East European Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), his marketing and communications chief, who has been his strongest support over all the years, good and bad. Winslet is sensational, her slight accent just right, her emotional contribution perfect.
Jeff Daniels makes for a moving John Sculley, the CEO who both nurtured and fired Jobs (not at the same time) and Michael Stuhlberg is heartbreaking as Jobs' loyal but long-suffering friend Andy Hertzfeld. Perla Haney-Jardine is riveting as the 19-year old daughter Lisa, as is Katherine Waterson as her mum Chrisann. But they all have to take heavy blows from Jobs, whose self confidence is half genuine, half bravado, hiding deep insecurities and hurts.
Aaron Sorkin's screenplay and Danny Boyle's direction give us a Steve Jobs profile that does not idolise or flatter him. As a result, the film gains respect and we gain insight. The father-daughter relationship provides a ton of emotional ballast, and the only section that focuses on technology in the middle of the film is perhaps its weakest, least accessible part. But if you were an adult in the late 70s and 80s, the recognition-nostalgia for those old computers will compensate. It isn't a history lesson or a compleat biopic; to get the full Jobs story, we need to do research. Like, on a computer ...
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STEVE JOBS (M)
CAST: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Eaterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, Sarah Snook, John Ortiz, Adam Shapiro, John Steen, Stan Roth
PRODUCER: Danny Boyle, Guyman Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon, Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
SCRIPT: Aaron Sorkin (book by Walter Isaacson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alwin H. Kuchler
EDITOR: Elliot Graham
MUSIC: Daniel Pemberton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Guy Hendrix Dyas
RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 4, 2016