If you care about Apple, and the way its cult like takeover of the gimmick conscious people of the world is like an industrial revolution, you’ll want to see Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs.” Boyle is such a good director, of films like “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours,” that he turns a pretty well known corporate saga into a fresh and exciting opera of greed, hubris, and technology.
But you don’t have to care about Apple, or the actual Steve Jobs to get this film. That’s because Aaron Sorkin has adapted Walter Isaacson’s best selling biography of Jobs into a three act play for film (which then, wisely, Boyle has made highly cinematic). So change Jobs’ name, it doesn’t matter, call him Frank or Ted. Sorkin has used the elements of Jobs’ life and created a new structure– two, actually, that run parallel to each other.
The first structure is highlighting three product launches, from the 80s, 90s, 2000s. So the goal of each act is get the product launched. In each case, a theatrical production will be the result, and the show must go on as it overcomes countless glitches. It’s a little like “Birdman” or “Shakespeare in Love” as constant personal subplots are also occurring backstage that may derail the whole enterprise. It’s a wonder we got the original Macintosh, or Job’s NEXT computer, or the iMac because behind the curtain, all hell was breaking loose.
And that’s the second structure: the story of Jobs, his ex girlfriend Chrisann, and their daughter Lisa. Jobs denies Lisa is his child, Chrisann is suffering from no funds, and Lisa is longing for a dad. This is the story of “Steve Jobs” more than computers. Steve is an insufferable prick, Chrisann and Lisa are trying to make sense of him. Sorkin’s feat is that he’s made this an original drama (again, names don’t matter) that we care about as these three people jockey for position in each other’s lives.
The actors make Boyle and Sorkin’s efforts pay off. Michael Fassbender is far sexier and more sympathetic than the real Steve Jobs, but brings out his villain with aplomb. He is now the leader in the Oscar’s Best Actor race. Katherine Waterston gives Chrisann just the right vulnerability and spunk. The three young women who play Lisa at different ages are remarkable in that they fit right in without missing a beat.
The supporting cast is exceptional starting with Kate Winslet as Joanna, Job’s right hand woman and best friend. She also has a Polish accent, which Winslet pulls off impeccably. Winslet’s Joanna is tough, sarcastic, funny. and when she finally loses patience with Job, she expresses the audience’s frustration with him too. It’s a great performance.
You will also l0ve Jeff Daniels playing Will McAvoy as John Sculley (and he does it too as the head of NASA in “The Martian”– it’s a Jeff Daniels year), Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld (who looks worse and worse over the years as he deals with Jobs, sort of like Jedidiah in “Citizen Kane”), and Seth Rogen as the put upon (and a little whiny device) Steve Wozniak.
Producer Scott Rudin, back again, yelled at me in 2012 because I didn’t think “The Social Network” (a really good movie) wasn’t “Citizen Kane.” But really, “Steve Jobs” is much much closer, and a more effective movie in that regard because it has a heart. Sorkin wrote that film, too, and maybe learned something from it. The Facebook people were kids who made a lot of money and were very unlikeable. The people in “Steve Jobs” are humans, with frailties and a lot to lose. This is a real tour de force.
PS great great music. And each segment is filmed differently to give it a look of the time. Beautiful idea.