The following review contains no spoilers at all!
Before you read my review of ‘Steve Jobs’, I urge you to go and listen to Episode 28 of our podcast first to get a more in-depth review. I, however, was not available for that episode hence why I have only just watched it for the first time.
I remember at the time being hugely disappointed that I was absent for that particular episode, not least because the ‘Finding Dory’ trailer had been revealed that week, but also because my excitement levels for this Danny Boyle directed biopic were very high.
Biopics only really work when they are based around someone you are truly interested in, because they tend to be rather detailed and after all, if you don’t give a damn about the individual then there won’t be any motivation to go and see the film.
Steve Jobs is most definitely someone I am very interested in and a biopic gives you a look at someone’s life in a way that other medium’s simply can’t. Of course, for the purpose of entertainment, aspects of the film are exaggerated and the way they are portrayed on screen are not necessarily the way they occurred in real life. However, the story is based on true events and real people and so it is safe to assume that a lot of what happens in the film is factual.
In order to change the world and revolutionise the way generations of people work and communicate, you have to have a great deal of persistence and stubbornness and that comes across massively in ‘Steve Jobs’. Michael Fassbender portrays the founder of Apple brilliantly, in a way that I have never seen before. It is an incredibly fast paced film, with a magnificently rich screenplay written by ‘The Social Network’s Aaron Sorkin.
It is a very intense film because it is just so unforgiving and so non-stop, that it doesn’t give you any time to breathe or digest what you have just learnt or witnessed. Once you realise that this relentless pace is not going to stop, it is actually a very enjoyable way to take in the narrative. It almost challenges you to keep up.
What makes the film so intense, is that almost every piece of information is conveyed in an argument or confrontation. Rarely a scene passes without some form of frustration or anger on the face of Jobs.
C0-starring is Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Apple’s marketing executive and Steve’s right hand woman. She is his rock throughout, and he is damn lucky to have her because if he didn’t then he would have lost his shit completely on a number of occasions. I was extremely impressed by Winslet’s performance, her accent was spot on, she was very tough but emotional and showed her caring, human side when it was required and she certainly didn’t overshadow Fassbender. His charisma ensured he was the focus of every scene but the chemistry between the two of them was fantastic and very believable.
Completing the line-up are Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, both of whom are also thoroughly impressive as Steve Wozniak and John Sculley respectively. At the 2015 Film Night Awards, Seth Rogen walked away with the award for most refreshing performance and I can now fully appreciate why he did. We are so used to seeing him play one-dimensional comedic characters who nine times out of ten find themselves getting high. It really was incredibly refreshing to see him play a different kind of role, and he proved he can do it because he definitely pulled it off. The confrontations between Wozniak and Jobs were some of the best moments of the entire film and had me transfixed, wondering if either would ever back down.
The final piece of the jigsaw is Jeff Daniels’ role as John Sculley, the CEO of Apple and the man who clashed with Jobs during his first stint at the company. Again, I cannot fault his performance. I was sceptical going in because having seen him play a similar role in ‘The Martian’ as the boss of NASA, I was not impressed at all. I was pleasantly surprised though that the same mistakes were not made again in this film. His passion came through like a ton of bricks, and again he displayed excellent chemistry with Michael Fassbender.
Something which I knew very little about, and I am now curious to find out how much of this was true, was the angle surrounding Steve’s daughter Lisa played by three different actresses at different ages. He refused to accept that she was his daughter which led to many extremely uncomfortable scenes between him and Lisa’s mother Chrisann (Katherine Waterston). You could see that he cared deeply for her, which made it all the more confusing as to why he put up these metaphorical barriers whenever Chrisann was around. There were some touching one-on-one scenes between Jobs and Lisa in which they opened up to each other. Questionable child acting aside, these were valuable moments for me.
I also very much enjoyed the ending, and how Lisa was incorporated into the final moments as Steve walks out on stage in front of the huge audience, ready to unveil the iMac in 1998.
Something I enjoy in true story films is when real life footage or sound bites are incorporated and there was plenty of that here. A lot of news footage was used to explain how each product had fared after its launch.
I have to say, although I enjoyed the fast pace style and the way the story was told, taking us backstage at three crucial product launches, I would have appreciated seeing Steve in a different environment. I think this would have added depth to his character, for example some scenes at his house in some rare down time or that sort of thing. Throughout, he is this stubborn, ego maniacal genius who won’t stop at anything until he gets what he wants. This is personified most at the Macintosh launch in 1984, when a last minute technical error means that it won’t be able to say “hello”. To most, this would be an annoyance solved by simply cutting it from the presentation. Not Steve Jobs. He threatens Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the development team, played very well by Michael Stuhlbarg. Fix it or you’re fired.
It certainly won’t be for everyone, but the machine gun style script from Aaron Sorkin makes ‘Steve Jobs’ a whirlwind of information and superb acting from an arguably never-better Michael Fassbender. The two hours feels more like two minutes. It’s just a shame we don’t see another side to Jobs, I wanted to get away from the backstage areas and see him in other environments.
I do feel a little harsh denying Danny Boyle et al a 5 star rating, but it’s going to be a very strong 4 stars this week.
‘Inside Jobs: The Making of Steve Jobs’ is a 16 minute featurette which gives you a fascinating look at how the film was pieced together. Featuring insights from Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin and all of the major cast, it’s a very well put together extra in which I learnt a fair amount. Danny Boyle claims that Michael Fassbender changed drastically through the filming process, so much so that he wasn’t even looking at scripts, it just “appeared” for him.