mon 22/07/2024

Steve Jobs | reviews, news & interviews

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender gives good monster, but Kate Winslet wins this iBattle

A convincing velociraptor: Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs

A couple of years ago there was a television documentary about Steve Jobs which wafted much smoke up the sainted iHole. A variety of famous fanboys wept over the curve on the iPhone 3 and simpered at the kleptocratic takeover of the music industry. Never mind that Jobs was reportedly short of redeeming features. A documentary has no obligation to supply drama. A feature film is another story.

The makers of Steve Jobs have their work cut out finding something plausibly nice to say about a driven egomaniac who tells anyone who’ll listen that he’s changing the planet.

Michael Fassbender is always up for a challenge. He’s been a slave owner, a sex addict and, only the other day, a murderous usurper of the Scottish throne. No other actor around gives such good ice. The setup of Aaron Sorkin’s script – which fillets the findings of Walter Isaacson’s book – gives Jobs a lot of facetime to display his unpleasantness from a variety of angles. Ingratiatingly obedient to the Platonic ideal of the Hollywood script, the film is in three acts, in each of which Jobs is about to launch a new product. At the end of the first act he loses his job at Apple; by the end of the second he has performed a boardroom coup and taken over the company; the third act unveils the Jobs we all know, the crop-haired prophet in little round glasses, jeans and rollneck who gave the world the iMac.

Sorkin’s tripartite structure sets up Jobs against an array of sparring partners who keep coming back at him. There’s a hairy Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, the tech whizz who actually made the stuff that Jobs was able to sell. "What do you actually do?" he asks, baffled. "I play the orchestra," replies Jobs. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Andy Herzfeld, the bullied minion who gets a thick ear when he fails to get the new Mac to say hello at the launch. The third male opponent is John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), the avuncular chief exec obliged to fire Jobs then live to regret his short-sightedness. And all the way through at his side, tutting, cajoling and pleading, is Jobs’s long-suffering head of marketing Joanna Hoffman. As compellingly played by Kate Winslet (pictured below), she’s the beating heart of Steve Jobs who just happens to have a voice like a clipboard.

The rise and fall and rise again of an eMessiah is some sort of a story, but early on everybody involved must have intuited that the triumphant launch of the iMac wasn’t a climax to send anyone home happy apart from the stoniest-hearted geek. So coursing through the film is the story of Jobs’s record as the parent of a young girl. He refuses to acknowledge the five-year-old Lisa as his own – she lives on benefits with her mother Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) while his stock options clear the $400 million mark. He takes a begrudging interest in her by the time she’s nine but, when she’s 19, fails to pay her college fees – though he's enraged when he discovers an underling has done it for him.

Sorkin’s incessantly talky script is very much a kid bro of The Social Network, and director Danny Boyle finds a jerky style to match. The camera stalks frantically around conference centre backrooms (atmospherically it has the skyless claustrophobia of Birdman). The fervour of Jobs’s acolytes is captured in stomping and Mexican waving and cheering. Moments of dramatic tension – Jobs’s sacking by Sculley, for example – are ratcheted up by manically chopping between the event itself and a retrospective argument.

The heart of the film is all about Lisa (smartly played by Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo and finally Perla Haney-Jardine). Fassbender is a highly convincing velociraptor, all pride and priapism, and yet it’s Winslet who gets the film’s standout moment when Hoffman challenges Jobs to mend fences with his daughter or she quits. “Fix it!” she yells, flinging brochures and print-outs on the floor. “Fix it!” It’s the shot in the arm the film needs, but not quite enough to fix anything: the salvation – whether it happened like this or not – which follows feels hollow. Jobs's villainy is explained as a projection of his victimhood: he was rejected, he explains in passing, by adoptive parents. He even gets a rosebud moment, like that other visionary monster of American capitalism. As a revelation of his humanity it comes too late in the day.

Steve Jobs puffs out its chest and valiantly adrenalises design concepts and balance sheets. It co-opts Dylan and other game-changing icons of the counterculture. It sure as hell talks the talk. As a portrait of an imperfect perfectionist, it doesn’t quite walk the walk.


The triumphant launch of the iMac wasn’t a climax to send anyone home happy apart from the stoniest-hearted geek


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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