Steve Jobs was the ultimate renaissance man of the tech age. He created the most ubiquitous brand of the twenty first century: Apple. Unlike Jobs, a sincere but inadequate film, Steve Jobs is an ambitious film befitting of the man’s legacy. The film was created by a dream team — not unlike the dream teams at Apple — of scriptwriter extraordinaire (and The Social Network screenwriter) Aaron Sorkin, director Danny Boyle and an astounding cast led by Michael Fassbender as Jobs. Although the film is tedious at parts, it is enchantingly full of solid dialogues.
The world knows Steve Jobs as the demigod worshipped by legions of people, and this film follows his interactions with a group of people closest to him. These are people who, unlike the rest of the world, are not his sycophants; they are his equals in every way. Kate Winslet leads the supporting cast as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’s work wife, right hand woman, voice of reason and, in some ways, his baby-sitter. Needless to say, Winslet once again proves she is a seasoned professional, delivering another knockout performance.
Seth Rogen plays Steve Wozniak, or simply “Woz,” in a performance that is Rogen’s most serious and most likable to date. Rogen has the whole audience wanting to crawl into the screen and hug him. Jeff Daniels plays John Sculley, Apple’s original CEO and the father figure that Jobs longed for, in a role that Daniels’ fits perfectly.
The film, however, belongs completely to Fassbender. Fassbender’s career has been in the middle ground between underdog and certified star for years, and he finally completes that transition with this film in a performance that is pure Oscar bait. Steve Jobs was a man who internalized his issues; he longed for acceptance but possessed a pathological fear rejection, which caused the development of his tough exterior.
This role required a performer who could subtly uncover those layers, and Fassbender was the worthiest candidate. He brings the gravitas necessary for the role that Ashton Kutcher lacked in Jobs. Fassbender delivers a faultless performance of Jobs as the embodiment of jackass-ness — the egomaniac that cannot recognize his own arrogance, yet by the end of the film has the audience rooting for him.
The film unfolds like a staged play. Written in three parts, the film follows Jobs’s backstage interactions at three product launches in different phases of his life, giving the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the man. Boyle does his best as the director, but its Sorkin’s script that is the film’s strength.
The stylization of each characters’ dialogue helps create the tension and establish the equations between each character. For example, Jobs’ dialogues are eloquent and often consist of incomprehensible metaphors, in contrast to Woz, whose dialogues lack Jobs’ confidence and affectation. Their contrasting styles of speech are what establish the balance of power between the two. Even though the context of the conversation establishes that Woz is the brain, Jobs’ bravado establishes that he is the boss.
In some sort of paradoxical twist, Sorkins’ script is also the film’s downfall. Much of the dialogue revolves around computer products that are way too dated for most of the audience to remember or even care about. These products are often the subjects of the tensest scenes, which fail to engage with the audience who are left reaching reach for their iPhones during these passionate moments.
Despite the overwhelming amount of tech talk, the script works. It’s not going to be the next The Social Network. It’s not another Shakespearean tale of betrayal set in the IT era; it is a film that attempts to humanize the legend in the way that he attempted to humanize his machine. Where The Social Network was about Facebook, Steve Jobs is less about Apple, and more about the man behind the company. Steve Jobs is far simpler than The Social Network and for this reason it will not be cinematic landmark like the latter, but that should not undermine this film’s merits. It’s a subtle, well written and cool film that’s worthy of its name.