Steve Jobs is set up in three “acts,” centering on the moments prior to Jobs taking the stage to launch: the first Macintosh (in 1984), the Jobs’ post-Apple venture Next (in 1988) and lastly, the first iMac (in 1998).
Each of these events is punctuated by Jobs’ interactions with those who were closest to him, namely:
- Macintosh team member and confidant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet),
- Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen),
- former Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels),
- former girlfriend and mother of his first child, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston)
- Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) , a member of the original Mac team, and
- his first child, daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs (played by Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss, respectively at different ages).
It is in these expository moments (woven with the present and past) that we are offered a revealing insight into the inner workings of a man whose personal life and interpersonal relations seemed at odds with the control he exerted in his professional endeavors.
I find it interesting that, although the film is loosely adapted by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) from Walter Isaacson’s 2011 authorized biography of the same name (with additional information culled from interviews conducted by Sorkin himself), the film reaches its end in 1998, over a decade before Jobs’ passing. As you watch the film come to a close, you realize that this is not needed – the film has told you the story it wanted to effectively.
Initially I was not entirely sold on Michael Fassbender as Jobs (there I said it). When I saw the early trailers, all I could think was “hey, that’s Michael Fassbender.” Maybe it had something to do with not thinking Fassbender and Jobs shared any likeness, in either face or voice. But as I sat watching his performance, all those reservations floated away out of my head. I was taken in so much so that at one point during one of these “acts,” it took everything in my power not to get up and applaud what I had just seen on screen.
As (semi) regular readers to this site can attest, Kate Winslet can do no wrong in my book (not even in The Holiday). As Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ right-hand-woman, she delivers another solid performance. And the same can be said for all of the ensemble – they all deserve a round of applause for their work.
The performances would (obviously) be nothing without the words. Sorkin’s trademark voice is clearly present, but it is not at all intrusive. Because of the way the story is told, Sorkin has structured Steve Jobs very similar to a play. In spite of this, in its execution, it does not feel stage-y. It’s an accomplishment to be sure and a wonder to observe.
Earlier, I used the term “artful” for a reason. As anyone familiar with the work of Danny Boyle knows, that while the stories and emotions surrounding his films are all too real and grounded, there are often moments during his films that enter a fantastical realm. And, as in other examples of his oeuvre show, these “escapes” in Steve Jobs do not take you out of the story, in fact, this approach kept me engaged.
As I wrap this up, let me just say that my praise for the film does come without a ‘warning’ – if you are expecting a straightforward recounting of Jobs’ life, you will not find it here. That said, I am willing to wager that in Steve Jobs, you will find no better telling of Steve Jobs’ life and times that captures the spirit of a complicated and complex man, who did in fact, change the world.
Steve Jobs comes out Friday in select theaters with wider release a couple of weeks later.
Photo credits: Universal Pictures