From the writer of The Social Network comes the story of a socially inept inventor who founded a giant tech company. Who says Hollywood has no new ideas?
Steve Jobs is a very bad name for a film – especially one that isn’t really about Steve Jobs at all; pretty much everyone that knew the Apple CEO claims that this depiction is a complete fabrication, with Apple design chief Jony Ive stating: “I don’t recognise this person at all.” There’s artistic licence, and then there’s misrepresenting a real person as borderline-psychopathic to capitalise on their recent death. Throughout the movie, the phrase “you can’t libel the dead” keeps springing to mind.
So once we accept that this film has nothing to do with the man called Steve Jobs who ran the company called Apple, it’s actually quite impressive. The movie has a theatrical three-act structure, each part taking place backstage before the launch of one of Jobs’ products: the Macintosh (1984), the NeXT (1988) and the iMac (1998). The great Danny Boyle shoots on different types of film to reflect each period (16mm, 35mm and digital, respectively), and directs with brilliant use of dynamics and his usual visual invention. Jobs would probably approve of the aesthetic, if nothing else.
Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is equally sharp, and his signature snappy dialogue doesn’t let up for a second. As in The Social Network, he succeeds in making us care about the most obnoxious techno-pricks for 90 minutes; it’s just a shame the movie lasts two hours. That’s two hours of walking, talking and acerbic wit – even from Jobs’ nine-year-old daughter Lisa (Ripley Sobo). Other notable performances include Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg as Leonard from The Big Bang Theory.
But it’s Michael Fassbender who steals the show as not Steve Jobs, a man of technological control but personal neglect; obsessed with punctuality but incapable of making a device with an accurate clock. Admittedly, he looks nothing like Steve Jobs – which is fine, because he’s not Steve Jobs. He does look more like Jobs that Ashton Kutcher, who played him in 2013 – though we only have his word for that, given how quickly his movie was buried. And as for Kate Winslet’s accent, iHave no idea. She overacts as Jobs’ assistant/spin doctor/child therapist, depending on what the plot requires.
A work of complete fiction, Steve Jobs is a fine film about communication and control. There’s some cool music by Daniel Pemberton, which echoes the pleasing pings of Apple devices and bathes the film in an electronic glow familiar to Boyle’s work. But aside from misrepresenting the dead, the film beats into us with an iPad the idea that multinational tech corporations are the most interesting and coolest things in the world – which they’re not. In the end, the movie is like Apple’s products: technically brilliant but incredibly frustrating.