Thursday, November 12, 2015
Movie Review - "Steve Jobs" (2015) - A Fallen Idol
To see the world through the eyes of an innovator is to see a bleak and often miserable existence. We might praise people like Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King Jr. now, but during while these fighters were in a constant struggle against not only their own demons but against society for daring to be different. Most of the people who change the world do not get their recognition until after their deaths.
I can honestly say I did not know who Steve Jobs was until after he passed away and everyone would not stop talking about how he changed the way we looked at computers and invited them into our home. That the digital age of social media, instant access information and handheld devices would not be possible without Steve Jobs. And after the release of his biography, which detailed his turmoil with Apple and his personal life, it only seemed natural to turn his life story into a film.
That is, after the disaster that was Asthon Kutcher's "Jobs."
Danny Boyle's "Steve Jobs" is a unique film-going experience that takes a vastly different approach to telling one man's life story while still capturing the essence of why this flawed creature is beloved and praised. Aaron Sorkin's writing shifts between pretentious and enlightening, but that is to be expected at this point. But Michael Fassbender's performance as Steve Jobs is what people are talking about, even if Fassbender can never reach the ego of this innovator.
The film details three key moments in Steve Jobs life - The reveal of the Macintosh shortly after the début of the "1984" Apple commercial, Steve's first independent creation of the NeXT computer in 1988, and his return to Apple with the creation of the iMac. Each of these takes place a few hours before Steve (Fassbender) showcases these products to the world, while we watch his life fall apart around him, including from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), the CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), his personal assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and Steve's daughter Lisa, who he constantly denies as his offspring.
How you react to this movie will depend entirely on how you feel about Fassbender's performance.
While he nails the emotional scenes, realizing how much of a prick he can be to the people who care about him, there is a certain air to his performance. I never got the impression this was Steve Jobs, just Michael Fassbender pretending to be Steve Jobs. You might argue that is exactly what acting is, but great acting makes you forget the illusion of cinema and feel that you're watching real people, not just actors trying to be someone else.
I felt the performances from Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet were emotionally-driven and often sympathetic to those who had to consistently deal with Steve Jobs. But it always felt like I was seeing Michael Fassbender flaunt his ego, and not become Steve Jobs. Perhaps this was because the man has become a legend by this point that it almost impossible for any actor to portray him.
That being said, Fassbender made Steve Jobs vulnerable. He showed that this was a man who wanted to make something of himself in the world and took every opportunity to showcase that. Because he was so caught up in changing the world, he would neglect everything that any normal man would, like his daughter. This is a man so absorbed in his own ego that he is astonished that other people don't feel the same way about him.
Because of that, I can't say that Fassbender's performance was off-putting. It works perfectly for Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, even if he does not fully emulate Steve Jobs. From the moment of Fassbender denying that he has a daughter to the revelation of why Time magazine made his computer the "Man Of The Year" and not him, this is a noteworthy performance.
Overall, "Steve Jobs" is about a man so caught up in changing the world that he forgot to be apart of his own world. The visual style of Boyle's film matches this theme and character-arc for Jobs, as we watch his dreams become larger than life, then all fall apart, only to rise from the ashes and for the world to see him as he sees himself - an innovator.
Final Grade: B+