steve-jobs-movie-review

It’s impossible to condense the full measure of a man into a feature running time.

Steve Jobs, the collaboration from Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle and Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, opens in limited release this week. The biopic examines the eponymous Apple founder using a mere three scenes, a device that is both bold and off-the-mark.

When we first meet Steve Jobs, it’s 1984 and he’s about to launch the first iteration of the Mac Computer. In 1984 Jobs is a total megalomaniac who’s convinced himself that he’s some sort of tech-world Messiah. He prepares for the launch of the computer by threatening its chief engineer, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), insulting his co founder, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and bonding with Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels).

In addition to convincing himself of his anointed status, Jobs has also convinced himself that he is not his daughter’s father. When the mother of his child (Katherine Waterston) confronts Jobs before his product launch and

The film moves to 1988 where an ousted Jobs is now overseeing the launch of the NEXT Computer – his company following Apple. Clearly defeated, but with a lot of his same self-assured energy, Jobs has much different confrontations with Hertzfeld, Wozniak and Sculley – the third of which is the most heated as the two recount Jobs’ being fired by Apple.

The most notable way in which Jobs has softened is his relationship with his daughter whom he now acknowledges and has begun to dote on as though he’d raised her.

The film concludes in 1998 where a now-bespectacled Jobs has donned his trademark jeans and black turtleneck as Apple’s resurrected CEO. Jobs his set to unveil what will be his first unabashed success, the iMac, but first must face the familiar trio of Hertzfeld, Wozniak and Sculley as well as mend fences with his daughter.

If the three scene story structure seems repetitive, that’s because it is. The film essentially carries through three prolonged conversations over 14 years, revisiting them at each stop. Jobs is escorted from conversation to conversation by his trusted Head of Marketing, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), in what becomes a routine for the audience almost immediately. There’s no traditional arc or story structure and while that’s a refreshing departure, it doesn’t quite work in a cinematic sense.

That’s not to say the structure is a total misfire. Sorkin’s approach recognizes the impossiblity of being able to capture such a complex and divisive character within the constraints of a form such as a feature film and instead chooses to approach the man through the things that most made him: his products.

It is the perfect setting to reveal as much as possible about Jobs in a mere two hours and Sorkin and Boyle do their mightiest with incredible dialogue and a sharp focus to Jobs’ own product-directed tunnel vision.

This is further bolstered by the tremendous performance of Fassbender who’s a force of nature from the first frame and ceases to compel the viewer to remove their eyes from for even one of the reamining frames. It’s a performance of bombastic audacity that Fassbender never allows to wander into scenery chewing though that would be incredibly easy in this high-wire one man show he’s been given.

Steve Jobs offers a lot in terms of innovation and new thinking in the creation of a biopic, but what essentially becomes a three-act play structure never quite leaps from the screen as it would in a live theater. This leaves the film as a flashy look forward that ultimately ends up somewhat hollow and awash in its own bravura.

Much like the man himself.