There's something about the Steve Jobs story that seems to deeply resonate with the American people. The cofounder of Apple computers came from a lower middle-class family and was raised by adoptive parents. A real "color outside the lines" kind of guy, he dropped out of college to build the company that would later go on to sell us all the greatest tech gadgets we never knew we always wanted. Everyone was all, "Nobody wants to buy an attractive, user-friendly computer with all the components built into it!" But Steve persevered.
Jobs' story represents what are now in vogue ideas about the intersection of capitalism and creative thinking, how a person can change the world with innovative ideas and come to know themselves at the same time. When he died in 2011, the Internet mourned him. Just 19 days later the authorized biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson hit shelves, and didn't it seem as though a shocking number of people were reading it? That the book reveals Jobs may have been a bit of an egomaniacal tyrant only strengthens the man's allure.
Now we have Steve Jobs the motion picture, adapted by Aaron Sorkin from Isaacson's book. You'll recognize Sorkin as the author of every walking and talking political conversation you've ever seen on TV or film, such as "The Newsroom," "The West Wing" and The Social Network. Danny Boyle—the man behind Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire—directs.
Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs in a performance I can't help but call "transformative," particularly when you compare it to Ashton Kutcher's embarrassingly bad turn in the forgotten clunker Jobs (2013). This film takes place in three distinct segments that correspond with major product launches in Jobs' career: The unveiling of the Macintosh in 1984, the big flop of a computer called Next in 1988 (whose operating system helped reclaim his position at Apple) and finally the iMac in 1998 that marked the beginning of Apple's steady colonization of our hearts and minds. You remember, it was the big blue computer with the built-in speakers that Jennifer Lopez threw into the pool in her first-ever music video.
These sequences happen mostly in real time, with a few flashbacks to add context to the characters' weighty, rapid-fire conversations. Kate Winslet stars as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs' marketing strategist, work wife and conscience. "You have six minutes to have a heartfelt conversation with the daughter you tried to abandon before you go onstage," she often says, or its equivalent. Seth Rogen plays Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple and the guy who actually built the computers. Primarily, the Steves bicker before every product launch over "respect" and whether or not they have any for one another.
Steve Jobs is by most measures an unobjectionable film. It's briskly paced and intelligent, with memorable performances throughout—and yet I couldn't help feeling both manipulated and bored. The script does a valiant job of distracting from the contrivances of its structure—do we really need to have this conversation about what went wrong at that board meeting 10 years ago now?but I'm not quite sold. Jobs' redemption in the third act feels sentimental and shoehorned in, and overall I found the dialogue sharper than the industry standard but lamer than what I've come to expect from Sorkin. How's this for faint praise: Steve Jobs is the best Apple CEO biopic of the decade.
Steve Jobs continues at the Carmike 12.