Monday, October 12, 2015
STEVE JOBS Brings Us Just One Step Closer to a Real Steve Jobs Profile
I think STEVE JOBS might be the first film in a long while on which everyone seems to have an "informed" opinion--whether they've watched it or not. Even I went into the film trepidatious, still licking my battle wounds from Ashton Kutcher's hack job as the tech icon in Jobs. Why did we need another movie about Steve Jobs, even if it does star the great Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet? Just like any Apple product, Hollywood seems to be constantly trying to upgrade his story in hopes of getting it "just right."
But is STEVE JOBS the perfect model? Well, let's just say his Hollywood narrative has come a long way. But I still don't feel I know Jobs any better. Rather than telling a chronological account of his rise to success (a familiar biopic tactic), this film captures singular moments in his professional life, spilling into its effects on his personal life, peppered with tense dialogue between the key players: Macintosh Marketing Head Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and Lisa Jobs (Makenzie Moss and Perla Haney-Jardine), Steve's daughter. In essence, the film is drawn more like a prosecution of Jobs' life, rather than an exploration.
He was apparently an egomaniac (we got that from the previous film). He famously denied the paternity of his daughter, which is remarkably portrayed by Fassbender in the film--a mixture of cold distance and tortured emotion. Overall, he had very little compassion for anyone, including himself as his perfectionism even got in the way of that. So, as one can imagine, he acquired enemies--lots of them--on his ascent to the top. This seems to be the typical journey for many tech inventors--ts least as Hollywood depictions go (i.e. The Social Network, etc)
Director Danny Boyle recreates the late 70s and early 80s era of bellbottoms and gigantic personal home computers with a vintage camera, and places the audience right in the center of Jobs' four-way conflict. First, there is Jobs and ex-girlfriend Chrissann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) in the middle of what seems to be a routine argument about money and responsibility, which ping pongs to Jobs' squabbles later in his life with Wozniak, who's disgruntled over Jobs' perpetual habit of discrediting the significance of Apple co-founders including Wozniak himself. There's also Sculley, who's got a years-long bone to pick with Jobs.
But perhaps the most interesting contention is the one with Hoffman, because it has more to do with Jobs as a person than his professional ethics. Thus, we get a glimpse of Jobs' humanity here. Having worked most closely with Jobs for over two decades, Hoffman had the overwhelming vantage point of having seen (and managed) Jobs' personal and professional faults. I actually wish their relationship was the entire film because not only was it the most engaging (and the least documented), but also because we get to know more about Jobs. And not just his vulnerability, but his justifications. It seems from this film that it was only Hoffman to whom he at least bothered to explain himself--though his respect for her was still mired in his own pompousness. Having their relationship at the forefront of the film would have complicated the typical Hollywood narrative on Jobs.
That's not to say that Aaron Sorkin's story wasn't well done (it was). It was just expected, especially if you think about it in relation to Sorkin's similar approach to The Social Network. Both Fassbender and Winslet are mesmerizing to watch, while Rogen and Daniels also give strong supporting performances. So STEVE JOBS is more of an actor's movie in which the performances outweigh every other area of the film. Which isn't a negative, but is what it is. Take that for what it's worth.