It’s a shame that a lot of the press surrounding Danny Boyle’s Steve jobs, seems focused on its apparent box office failure in the States – whether or not it will prove more popular in the UK, remains to be seen.
Its lack of an American audience may be because of the Ashton Kutcher-starring disaster, Jobs, that was released only two years ago; or, it could simply be that people don’t see Steve Jobs’ story quite as worthy as those of the public figures and geniuses he’s so often compared to in the movie – people like Julius Caeser and Leonardo da Vinci.
Whatever the cause of its commercial failure – so far, at least – it’s disappointing to think that so many people may just miss out on a truly fine piece of film-making, that has towering performances, expert direction and, above all else, another Oscar worthy screenplay from The Social Network writer, Aaron Sorkin.
What’s so wonderful and surprising about Steve Jobs, is that it dares to stray away from the usual biopic blueprint. This isn’t your usual, bloated, birth to death-type story of one of this generations most iconic and influential people; but instead, a concise, sharp and snappy observation that’s far more interested in Steve Jobs as a person, as opposed to his life story.
Meticulously following a tradition three act structer, the film follows Jobs over the course of fourteen-years; starting in 1984 and ending in 1998. Each act takes place on the day of a new product launch, just hours before Jobs is due to take the stage, with the majority of the action taking place behind the scenes.
Occasionally, we’re treated to a flashback or two; whether that be of Jobs and his collaborator, Steve Wozniack, creating their first ever computer, or Jobs trying to secure a CEO in John Sculley; but otherwise, the film has a pinpoint focus on Jobs’ personal and professional relationships.
It’s a brave move to try and tell this story in the corridors and rooms at the backstage of various theatres, but one that absolutely pays off thematically, as well as narratively. There’s a sense of chaos throughout, as Jobs struggles to deal with the various issues going on in his life, as the countdown toward his time on stage goes on the background. Not only does this give Sorkin the opportunity to write his usual punchy, word-a-second dialogue, but this structure successfully contains what could have been a convuluted story.
More than anything, the structure reflects, rather brilliantly, the main purpose of the film which is to explore the different personas of Steve Jobs; the one we know as the face of Apple, who so charismatically and confidently presented the world with his company’s life changing technology; and the ‘real’ Steve Jobs who only few got to see behind the curtain.
Here, he’s represented as neither a good or bad person, but instead is portrayed simply as a person. That doesn’t look at Steve Jobs through the the rose tinted glasses that Apple may have wanted it to. The complexities of Steve Jobs’ personality are simply presented to us, and it is up to us to decide how we feel about him. What’s particularly impressive about Sorkin’s screenplay, however, is that it manages to develop the characters whilst confined to the film’s setting.
The relationship between Jobs and his daughter, Lisa, is central to this development. When we first meet Jobs in 1984, he’s so adamant that Lisa isn’t his daughter, that he’s even come up with a formula to suggest that 28% of the male population in America, could in fact be the father of the young girl.
As we step in and out of the pairs lives, years at a time, it’s their relationship which is the focal point of change in their behaviours. The moments that the two share are amongst some of best, and they are a joy to watch right up until the film’s genuinely touching ending.
It’s honestly writing at its very best, brought to life by the stellar performances from its central cast. Michael Fassbender is as astounding as ever in the role of Jobs, to the point where you often forget that you are watching Michael Fassbender. He’s supported by the likes of Kate Winslet who, dodgy accent aside, is flawless as Jobs’ ‘work wife’, Joanna Hoffman, and Jeff Bridges who once again on top form, following his recent turn in The Martian.
The biggest revelation in Steve Jobs, is in truth Seth Rogen, who plays Steve Wozniack. Primarily associated with stoner-comedies, you’d think that he would be out of his depth in this, but he manages to hold his own against some of the finest actors working today. On the surface, his performance may seem lacking, but there’s a subtle physicality to it – it’s as if he’s always trying to avoid eye contact with Jobs, which superbly sets up their dynamic – that really impresses.
The final component which brings Steve Jobs together, is the direction from Danny Boyle. This may lack the visual pizazz that we’ve come t expect from the film-maker, but then the screenplay is so strong that it doesn’t really need it.
You get the sense that Boyle understands that, and so allows Sorkin’s screenplay to play out with little interference. That said, there are moments littered throughout that allow the director some creative reign, with the use of some great archive footage and a terrific soundtrack.
Steve Jobs really is the complete package. It has performances, writing and directing from people at the top of their game. It may not be life changing viewing, but I’m not sure you could ask for much more from a trip to the cinema. I hope it finds a huge audience, because it deserves one.
Image credit to http://www.macrumours.com