When two master storytellers come together, it is worth taking the chance to see what they produce. Danny Boyle (Trance) and Aaron Sorkin (Social Network) decided to join forces to tackle the life of cultural demigod Steve Jobs. Cleverly, they do this not via a traditional structure, but by taking us backstage during three critical product launches. The format is interesting, but it definitely leaves out huge chunks of history, information, and events, even though it tries to fill in some of that with flashback.
The movie attempts to answer the question: asshole, genius, asshole-genius? but somewhat backs off judgement by the final frames. Regardless, it certainly isn’t a forgiving portrait of Jobs. However, whether true to history or not, it feels like it either holds back some of his more human qualities early on to have impact later in the movie or that moments were manufactured to soften the impact of just how difficult he really was. In other words, it is a tad staged in practicum and by design.
On the other hand, Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) gets to take Jobs on a maturing journey over the course of his corporate life. His work is subtle, and mostly supported via the carefully crafted Sorkin script, which performs riffs and variations on earlier dialogue to make its points. And it was enough to get Fassbender an Oscar nomination this year, though he is unlikely to win.
His fellow nominee, Kate Winslet (The Dressmaker), has a better chance at taking home a statuette. Her performance is delightful, full of energy, and the thread that keeps this film together. Without her, much like Jobs without the real Joanna Hoffman, the film would have likely failed.
While the rest of the cast is very much window dressing for the other performances, Seth Rogen (This is the End) was a perfect Wozniak. Equally well cast were Jeff Daniels (The Martian) as Sculley, Michael Stuhlbarg (Trumbo) as Hertzfeld, and Sarah Snook (The Dressmaker) as Andrea Cunningham. These grains of sand in Jobs’ life, as portrayed, were all handled with a great deal of care. While volatile, and from Jobs’ point of view, you managed to see the care these people had for him… affection he didn’t know quite what to do with.
The story itself lays bare the man and his influence, his dogged vision, and stubborn approach, which eventually paid off. His ability to foresee culture and to manipulate the public were legendary, but rarely acknowledged… well, certainly the latter part. The cult that formed around him lives on past his influence… something worth studying over the next 10 years or so to see what it might develop into.
As a movie, which is really what these posts are about, it is an interesting look behind the veil of history. Over simplified, somewhat manipulated, and certainly restructured, but it gets the point across. What that point is you’ll have to decide for yourself. Like many movies by Sorkin and Boyle, it doesn’t boil down easily to a simple answer. And yeah, you should see this at some point and decide for yourself, but know the story is a lot bigger than presented.