REVIEW: Steve Jobs (2015)

Theatrical Release Poster – Universal Pictures

The following is a review of Steve Jobs, a Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin film.

A couple of years ago, I sat down in a movie theater to watch Joshua Michael Stern’s Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher. At best, Jobs was an okay film, with a good performance from Ashton Kutcher. Jobs, however, wasn’t memorable at all, and I doubt that I’ll ever see that film again. Tonight I saw Steve Jobs, Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s take on the late Apple co-founder. I am happy to say that it is much better than Stern’s version.

Steve Jobs follows the titular character (played by Michael Fassbender) as he prepares for three separate public presentations. The film shines a light on his relationship with his coworkers and employees, as well as his relationship with his family. The three separate public presentations are for the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT Computer in 1988, and the iMac G3 in 1998. The film is based on Walter Isaacsson’s biography of the same name.

Based solely on actor resemblance Jobs succeeds where Steve Jobs fails. Ashton Kutcher looks like Steve Jobs, whereas Michael Fassbender doesn’t resemble the late Apple co-founder at all. However, movies aren’t documentaries. Sure, resembling the person that you are playing can help the audience, but, ultimately, only the performance matters. As previously mentioned, I thought Ashton Kutcher delivered a good performance in Jobs.

Michael Fassbender, however, is so much better than Kutcher ever was in Jobs. Fassbender is electrifying and arrogant in the title role, there’s a sense of depth and emotion that never came across the same way in Stern’s version, which Sorkin handled well when he also addressed the possessive nature of the titular character. Fassbender’s performance is mesmerizing, captivating, and perfect for Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue. It might be the best performance of 2015.

Jobs’s true partner in this story is Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet). I was surprised to see how much the writers had decided to rely on her, while, simultaneously, giving Steve Wozniak (played by Seth Rogen) less to do in the adaptation. I would’ve liked to see more of Wozniak in the film, but I thought Kate Winslet handled her role extremely well. Hoffman is from Eastern Europe, and I was very pleased to see, and hear, how Winslet handled the tough accent. Winslet played it very well, and it was a very subdued accent, which I only thought slipped when she mentioned Igor Stravinsky. All in all, it was a great performance from Winslet as well, who was the biggest surprise for me in the film.

Aaron Sorkin’s lines can be tough to memorize, let alone master. Fassbender and Winslet both seem to be perfect for his writing. Jeff Daniels is very familiar with Sorkin’s writing, after having been on his show The Newsroom, and his scenes with Fassbender are some of the absolute highlights in the film. They both truly master the dialogue that Sorkin is famous for. Speaking of which, this truly is Sorkin at his best.

As mentioned earlier, the film is split up into three separate pieces. It all works beautifully as a three-act structure, with his departure from Apple being the most exciting of the three acts. This film isn’t about Steve Jobs’s entire life, nor is it as superficial as Stern’s Jobs-film. I liked the structure of the film, and I really thought they mastered it. You’ve got a great setup, an amazing confrontation, and a solid resolution. In the falling action of the third act, I did think that the film was wrapping the story up a bit too neatly, but it is just a movie – so you’ll have to get over that.

My favorite stylistic choice made in the film was how a deliberate decision had been made to make the three separate acts distinguishable by the format used to film the scenes in. In 1984, in the first act, the film is filmed on 16mm. In 1988, in the second act, Steve Jobs is filmed on 35mm. And in 1998, in the final act, Steve Jobs is filmed on digital video.

I like how the structure of this film specifically resembles both the home-out-home and contract models that we know from fairy tales. The second act of Steve Jobs literally is the titular character out on his own away from his ‘home’ at Apple. And his character development is apparent, as he becomes much more of an adult in the third act. As for the contract model? Well, as he is fired by Apple in the second act, his contract is technically broken, and is then remade in the third act. I really loved how the film touched on Steve Jobs changing as a parent and as a person in the film.

Speaking of which, there’s a part in the second act where Lisa (played by three different actresses, one for each of the three acts) discusses two different versions of the song “Both Sides Now” – with the first version being described as ‘girly’, and the second version being described as ‘regretful’. The song is about experiencing both sides of life, and is a perfect way of showing how different Jobs is when we find him back at Apple 14 years after the conclusion of the first act. It was a really nice touch, I thought.

9 out of 10

I’m Jeffrey Rex