Movies haven’t often been described necessarily as a writer’s medium, but in the case of Universal’s Steve Jobs, there can be no question that the real star of this show is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. The Oscar-winning writer of The Social Network has pulled together another real-life tech story but in this case has created what I might call the anti-biopic. As I say in my video review (click the photo above), this is about as unconventional as movie biography gets. Instead of focusing on Jobs’ entire life from soup to nuts, this complicated and fascinating portrait of the driven genius chooses to be a three-act scenario, zeroing in cleverly on three product launches: the iMac, Macintosh and NeXT computer.
Because of this, much is left out, including the devastating cancer that took his life at age 56, his involvement in the launch of Pixar, the early years and much of his family — with the exception of daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine plays the older version). Their relationship is of core concern for this film and shows the toll his career took on his personal life. It’s devastating to see him at points even deny she was his daughter, even if there might have been reasonable doubt in his own mind.
But the main thrust of Steve Jobs, brilliantly directed by Danny Boyle, is to get inside the mind of this genius who changed the way we all live. Boyle was the perfect choice to helm this story. With the dazzling, dizzying pace of Sorkin’s writing, this could have been flat in lesser hands, but Boyle brings it to life in every way possible, moving his camera in concert with the speed of the words. This all plays like some kind of twisted Shakespearean play, and that was quite intentional. Of course, to pull it off you need high-caliber actors. Steve Jobs is lucky to have this cast. On the surface it would seem Michael Fassbender might be odd casting as Jobs. He doesn’t look like him at all, but after seeing this performance it would be hard to imagine anyone else doing nearly as well. Fassbender handles the incredible task of giving life and intelligence to mounds of dialogue and never falters. He delivers on every level, and you really get the essence through him of the complex, sometimes baffling genius that was Steve Jobs.
As Joanna Hoffman, Apple marketing maven and right hand confidante to Jobs, Kate Winslet also doesn’t look the part but nails it in every way imaginable. This is her best work in some time. I got a chance to meet Steve Wozniak at the Telluride premiere of the film, and he was thrilled with Seth Rogen’s portrayal. Why wouldn’t he be? This computer nerd comes off as articulate, human and uber-smart in Rogen’s capable hands. I also loved Jeff Daniels’ grounded and impressive work as John Sculley, the Apple CEO who was almost a father figure to Jobs and a key player in his ouster from the company. Daniels is one of the most reliable actors around.
There has been much written and filmed on the life of Steve Jobs. I actually didn’t think the movie Jobs that starred Ashton Kutcher was bad at all. Alex Gibney’s new documentary gives much context to the man as well. But in adapting Walter Isaacson’s massive biography, Sorkin has traveled the road not taken until now. In doing so, he really gets to the essence of this man and, as well as anything probably can, gives us what likely will be the definitive portrait. At the screening I was at, an audience member simply yelled “Sorkin!” after one particularly impressive scene. That was as fitting a tribute as any.
Scott Rudin, Guymon Casady, Mark Gordon, Christian Colson and Boyle serve as producers of the Universal release, which the studio got in turnaround from Sony (their loss) and several false starts with different actors attached to play Jobs. It’s nice to see that the delay paid off. They got it right. The film opens today in LA and NY and goes wide October 23.
Do you plan to see Steve Jobs? Let us know what you think.