Steve Jobs is a movie about the chaotic life of a man who changed technology for all of us. Instead of simply re-telling the stories and outlining the events which filled the time between Jobs’ birth and death, director Danny Boyle brings us Jobs’ story through three distinct product launches.
We first meet Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) as he’s preparing for his keynote speech at the 1984 launch of the Lisa, a personal computer designed by Apple. The Lisa is the first of its kind, the first computer to come with a graphical user interface. In other words, it’s the first computer you could interact with by clicking icons instead of typing in code. Lisa was supposed to be your digital friend, your guide, your binary Sherpa. It was supposed to be many things, but for Steve Jobs, it was the future.
For this product launch demo, Steve wants the Lisa to say hello. In fact, the computer was doing just that until moments ago and now he is displeased. Irate, Jobs snaps into just enough of a rage to openly threaten a colleague in front of an entire team of people. He’s a control freak and he’s got some anger issues, that’s clear from the start. After berating Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), Steve is informed that he’s got some guests who would like a moment of his time before he goes on stage.
Reluctantly, Jobs meets with the mother of the child whom he refuses to recognize as his own. His anger swells and his intensity crystalizes as he disputes his paternity, discusses finances and insults his former girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterson). For a single moment during this insanity, he connects with his daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss), but that moment is cut short and he’s entirely too relieved when Lisa and her mother leave.
Swiftly, Steve’s freed up to talk to his old friend Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and he’s delighted, but that doesn’t last long. Almost instantly, Jobs begins weaving a shroud of condescending charm that Wozniak refuses to accept. Woz just wants Steve to acknowledge the Apple II team in his speech, but since Jobs sees them as the past and the Lisa as the future, he righteously declines. Finally, he sees the last of his guests. John Scully is Steve’s boss and something of a father figure. Scully calms his nerves, gives him a great glass of wine and a reassuring pep talk. The music swells, the momentum builds and the crowd goes wild as Steve takes the stage.
This rollercoaster of emotional peaks and valleys repeats itself two more times at two other product launches. As time evolves, so too do Steve’s relationships with the people surrounding him. The only constant in his life is his colleague, marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). She’s the only one that can talk sense into Steve and get him to see reality for what it is. Steve Jobs is the story of what it takes to change the way the world sees something.
Michael Fassbender is exquisite. He brings us a Steve Jobs who is forceful, often curt and frequently impatient. Ever the excessively charming visionary, he borders on delusional and it’s a precarious and intoxicating mix. Fassbender’s spin on Steve Jobs feels more authentic than the mythic aura, which usually surrounds any mention of the man’s name here in Silicon Valley. Jobs is a technical god, despite not ever really “doing” anything, as Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) points out in the opening scene / trailer. What’s more, people revere him as such. In contrast, Fassbender creates a flawed and radical maverick who let life get out of hand while he was busy trying to change the world and make himself a star. It happens. I appreciated that dose of reality; it made Jobs accessible and that’s a big part of what makes this film work.
Kate Winslet is great as Joanna Hoffman, though her accent did throw me off every now and again. Winslet’s performance helps to draw out the human and relatable aspects of Job’s character in this particular film. She’s a good fit for a capable, smart and tough businesswoman who knows how to get things done.
Seth Rogen is pleasant and friendly as Steve Wozniak. He’s a familiar face that’s supposed to spark the warm & fuzzies. Rogen is efficient at exactly that, he softens the jagged edges around the bristly main character quite nicely. Michael Stuhlbarg’s performance as Andy Hertzfeld was also notable. He is an understated reality check at every turn. As a whole, the entire cast delivered, and boy do I love it when that happens.
Danny Boyle’s granular storytelling approach works brilliantly. He achieves what few do when telling tales of the famed and beloved tech visionary. He makes Jobs human again and sometimes, even borderline despicable. No, the real Steve Jobs wasn’t a perpetual tyrant, but then, neither is this fictional version. We’re looking in on this guy at three of the most stressful times in his life and during two of those moments, his world collapses almost completely. It’s brutal.
This movie is about extremes, possibilities and horrid disappointments. It’s a harsh version of reality that won’t sit well with everyone. With me it sits just fine. Steve Jobs inflicts rush after rush of excitement, punctuated with tragic doses of realism, which ultimately culminate in an overwhelming surge of emotion. Steve Jobs is one hell of a ride. Catch this one before it leaves theaters.
Steve Jobs – A
A = Movies this good don’t happen often and If you’re going to watch something you should watch this. This is exactly what I go looking for when I go to the movies. I trust you’ll enjoy it if you keep an open mind.