STEVE JOBS || 2015, UK / USA || Biopic || Directed by – Danny Boyle / Produced by – Danny Boyle, Guymond Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon, Scott Rudin / Screenplay by – Aaron Sorkin (based on the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson) / Music by – Daniel Pemberton / Cinematography by – Alwin H. Kuchler / Edited by – Elliot Graham / Starring – Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels / Running time: 122 mins.
Visionary businessman Steve Jobs died in 2011. That same year, production on this biopic began. Though the film is based on the biographical book of the same name by Walter Jackson, as well as a number of other direct sources, Steve Jobs takes some liberties that have been called out as historical inaccuracies. Yet, the end result, which sets this film aside from other biographical filmic contemporaries, relies on the fact that it dares to take such liberties and therefore dramatically blend the line between the Jobs public persona and his private one.
Steve Jobs is split into three acts, which in chronological order, depic the moments prior to the launches of three key products of his career: the Apple Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT Computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. The film primarily remains focused on the personal and professional drama that unfolds in the midst of the frenzy of these moments: the confrontations with engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Seth Rogen), a member of the original Apple Macintosh development team during the 1980s; the unsettling repercussions of a Time magazine article exposing his paternity dispute with his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterson) and, subsequently, the development of his relationship with his initially estranged daughter Lisa (played by three different actresses at different ages throughout the film, Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine); and his work association with marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet).
All these narrative points serve to expose significant traits of the personality of Steve Jobs that transcend his public persona. It particularly reveals a certain inpenetrable coldness of its lead character, which especially comes to the fore in his interactions with the female figures of the plot. His daughter, for example, gradually goes from being estranged to being a muse, while Hoffman often seems to replace all the different lacks of his intimate life – on top of being a work associate, she is almost like a replacement confidant, friend, wife and lover.
Then there is the behind the scenes look which this film provides on the construction of the public persona of Steve Jobs, revealed here not only in the storyline but also by the specific structural choice; it is no coincidence that the film follows a rigid three-act structure that makes it seem all the more theatrical, but rather a tribute to the theatrical particularity of Jobs’ presentations and overall public histrionic aura.
Boyle understands the power of Aaron Sorkin’s film lies in its dialogue. He therefore drops his flurry of montage and visual excitement for a stylized but compact chamber piece. He also opts to let the lengthy scenes breathe by allowing his actors’ performances to do so also. Fassbinder once acknowledged that he did not physically resemble the man he portrayed, but it hardly matters. Much like the true Jobs is a starting point in Sorkin’s focused and intense storyline, so is Fassbender’s celebrated acting at the service of the story more that the history. The result is one that is as focused and compact as the screenplay; everything about it, from its diction to its physicality, speaks of an apparently impenetrable and tense man whose two-dimensional balance is constantly disturbed by his personal relationships, and his lack of resistance towards human warmth no matter what. What is finally implied is that the Apple reflect the personality of Jobs and that due to these direct associations, the Apple products have a heart buried inside the technology that envelops them – the same can be said, parts reversed.
On the other hand, Winslet’s performance as the kind-hearted and patient Hoffman allows us to see through Jobs because it contrasts it with a more explicit softness. Such softness is so convincing that, during the moments in which Jobs appears too cold, her loyalty helps us see something that she is apparently alone in seeing, a tenderness and human side of his that is not immediately recognizable but is certainly there. This is why the moments of the film in which Fassbender and Winslet interact are the most intense and significant in the movie. – 5/5