Review: 'Steve Jobs' an electric depiction of Apple's enigmatic founder

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2015
A humanizing, honest and emotional portrayal of the complex man who cofounded Apple, "Steve Jobs" is a deeply satisfying film grounded by sharp dialogue and a stellar cast. AppleInsider had a chance to view the film in New York on Saturday, and also to participate participate in a Q&A with the talent behind the production.




The Aaron Sorkin-scripted "Steve Jobs" was selected as the prestigious Centerpiece of the 53rd annual New York Film Festival. It played to a packed house at Manhattan's Walter Reade Theater, where members of the press lined up well in advance for a chance to see the movie before this Friday's opening.

Michael Fassbender, in the lead role as Jobs, carries the bulk of the film, portraying the late Apple CEO as a self-described "broken" man. With Fassbender essentially constantly in the frame throughout the film, in a series of one-on-one complex conversations with the rest of the cast, the fast paced script leans on Fassbender's energetic, outstanding performance to bring it to life.

But the film also depends heavily on Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, a member of the original Macintosh team and the NeXT team. Winslet's Hoffman is a connective tissue in the narrative of the film, as she whisks Jobs from one conversation to another, and routinely stands up to the frequently stubborn and abrasive Apple chief.




Thankfully, the movie doesn't just focus on Jobs's lesser qualities, as it also portrays a kindhearted if difficult-to-reach man through moments of genuine sweetness. His complicated relationships with Steve Wozniak (played by Seth Rogen) and Andy Hertzfeld (portrayed by Michael Stuhlbarg) serve to showcase the love-and-loathe feelings about Jobs that many of those closest to him have shared over the years.

But the contradictory nature of Jobs is best defined by the dynamic between him and his daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Set over a span of 14 years before three major product launches, the film shows Jobs at three very different points in his life, and his exchanges with Lisa as both of them grow and change are the emotional center of the film.

There's an energy to the entire production captured not only by the script and cast, but also through director Danny Boyle's lively sense of fun and experimentation behind the camera. This all comes together thanks to tight editing that keeps the film clipping along.

Not content to be a typical cradle-to-grave biopic, "Steve Jobs" mixes in flashbacks, some unique visuals, and a real-time structure that gives a sense of urgency. Fassbender's Jobs struts from one scene to the next, bouncing off the likes of Jeff Daniels as former Apple CEO John Sculley in fast paced discussions that continue to peel back the layers surrounding the mythical nature of Jobs.




The film makes no major efforts to be historically accurate, but that's not really the point.

In the Q&A following the movie, Rogen said the crew felt historical accuracy is not necessarily the best way to accurately portray a person in a dramatic film. Still, he and the rest of the cast did spent time with their real-life counterparts in an effort to better understand the humans they were portraying, and how they saw Jobs.

"We pursued the man and his relationships with other people," Boyle explained. In that respect, the film succeeds.

Some of the moments do feel forced --?including quick lines foreshadowing the creation of the iPod and iPhone -- but easy to see why Sorkin included them, reflecting the forward thinking vision that Jobs had.

The script is also hilarious, with a number of witty laugh-out-loud moments. One standout moment is a meta commentary from Sorkin on the fictionalized, unrealistic structure of the film, where Jobs wonders aloud why everyone decides to inconvenience him just moments before new product unveilings.




Some of Sorkin's other work, such as HBO's "The Newsroom," felt at times like it was too smug for its own good, sometimes even seemingly condescendingly looking down on its own audience and subject matter. Thankfully, "Steve Jobs" never goes down that path. This is a film that respects the characters it portrays, and everyone comes across with clear, usually relatable and understandable intentions.

Following the screening, Sorkin said he's hopeful that people who see the film will not walk away with concrete answers about the nature of Jobs and his genius. The scriptwriter said he envisions that filmgoers will be arguing in the parking lot about who was right and whether someone like Jobs could have achieved what he did if he was a "nicer" person.

And so, thankfully, "Steve Jobs" makes no real attempts to fully resolve that conundrum. Because it shouldn't.

Because in "Steve Jobs," the iconic man behind the Mac, despite all of his genius, was still just a man.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 164
    bulk001bulk001 Posts: 483member
    So those who trashed Sorkin earlier now going to come out and lovingly fawn over the movie?
  • Reply 2 of 164
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,526member
    et tu, AI?
  • Reply 3 of 164
    bulk001 wrote: »
    So those who trashed Sorkin earlier now going to come out and lovingly fawn over the movie?


    Probably.
  • Reply 4 of 164
    bulk001 wrote: »
    So those who trashed Sorkin earlier now going to come out and lovingly fawn over the movie?

    Who, Neil Hughes?
  • Reply 5 of 164
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    bulk001 wrote: »
    So those who trashed Sorkin earlier now going to come out and lovingly fawn over the movie?

    I doubt it. This is just a single review, and all the info about this being an attempt to capture the essence of Steve Jobs, and his growth and journey as a human being and visionary in a three-part story that isn't a biopic is well known. Perhaps once they see the film—if they see the film—their opinion of the moviemakers attempt to make an entertaining film will change, but I think a lot of them made up their mind long before the film ever started shooting.
  • Reply 6 of 164
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    I'll happily trash Sorkin's statement/lie about China, and happily NOT trash his movie. If it's as entertaining as it sounds. (And that's enough: it doesn't have to be pure fact. It's not a documentary. And it doesn't have to be free of problems—few films are. I'm still interested in seeing imperfect films.)
  • Reply 7 of 164
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member

    You lost me at "A humanizing, honest and emotional portrayal" considering the people he worked with said that much of the movie never happened the way it did.

  • Reply 8 of 164
    sog35 wrote: »
    Why? Why would I praise Sorkin now?

    This article just confirmed my belief and Tim Cooks conclusion. The film is a big ball of Bullshit.

    I mean seriously. If they are not going to base the film on fact why even bother? Why not just do a film about a fictional character based on Jobs instead of making a psuedo-biography that most of Jobs closes friends say is not based on fact at all.

    My conclusion stands. You want to see a realistic portrail of Jobs based on fact? Don't watch this movie. If you want to be entertained by lies and half truths? Watch this film. Just as Cook said this whole thing smells opportunistic. They are using the Steve Jobs name to push a tall tale based on zero fact. Sucks that people use the name Steve Jobs to make films knowing his name alone will bring in some interest.

    Let the man rest in peace. Or if you are going to make a movie at least have the decently to make it based on fact not some made up drama.
    This isn't a documentary so some things are bound to be stretched and all. Will it detract me from watching the film? Probably not as I'm genuinely curious to see it and I love Fassbender and it really doesn't look like a bad movie.
  • Reply 9 of 164
    Whoa. Hold on. People are missing the real headline here.

    AppleInsider screened the movie? AppleInsider? And managed to get all these people on stage? What am I missing in what I thought I read?
  • Reply 10 of 164
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post



    Whoa. Hold on. People are missing the real headline here.



    AppleInsider screened the movie? AppleInsider? And managed to get all these people on stage? What am I missing in what I thought I read?



    They went to a press screening. It's a poorly worded paragraph 

  • Reply 11 of 164
    They went to a press screening. It's a poorly worded paragraph 

    Figures...
  • Reply 12 of 164
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post





    So you are okay with telling lies and half truths about a dead man just as long as its entertaining? Pathetic.

     

    Films are not "telling the absolute" or close to the truth, its a dramatization with a POV.

    Most documentary are even farther from the "truth" than fiction! They have a very heavy POV.

    Only a clip show would present truth (we have some of those already); most would not be really interesting as drama.

     

    Even a film from people who knew him then would still be not close to the truth and would not find universal approval.

     

    When doing a film, you're painting a brief moment of life, not documenting the whole of life.

    Your not posing a summary judgement on all Jobs was, but doing a quick sketch of one POV at those moments in time.

     

    As long as you go see those movies with that in mind, you're set.

     

    There's been hundred of rendition of Lincoln in fiction and performing arts, some just after he died,

    and most I'm betting don't have anything to do with the truth.

    By, most later accounts from historian, he wasn't really the man depicted in myth for more than a hundred year.

    Doesn't mean all of these are crap or not worth seeing.

     

    BTW,  No one really knows EXACTLY what occured during the time this occured, so even a depiction by people who were at the scene would give a varied view that some people would not agree with.

  • Reply 13 of 164
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    If Steve Jobs was alive this wouldn't have happened.
  • Reply 14 of 164
    wigbywigby Posts: 690member
    What
    sog35 wrote: »
    Why? Why would I praise Sorkin now?

    This article just confirmed my belief and Tim Cooks conclusion. The film is a big ball of Bullshit.

    I mean seriously. If they are not going to base the film on fact why even bother? Why not just do a film about a fictional character based on Jobs instead of making a psuedo-biography that most of Jobs closes friends say is not based on fact at all.

    My conclusion stands. You want to see a realistic portrail of Jobs based on fact? Don't watch this movie. If you want to be entertained by lies and half truths? Watch this film. Just as Cook said this whole thing smells opportunistic. They are using the Steve Jobs name to push a tall tale based on zero fact. Sucks that people use the name Steve Jobs to make films knowing his name alone will bring in some interest.

    Let the man rest in peace. Or if you are going to make a movie at least have the decently to make it based on fact not some made up drama.

    What are you talking about? This is one of hundreds of documentaries, biographies and dramas about Steve Jobs, most not released yet. He's a historical figure like Lincoln or Edison except more relevant. Why would we let him rest in peace and not create tons of movies and books about him?

    And what's your hangup on truth and facts. Tim Cook doesn't have a problem with these movies because they're all lies, he has a problem with them because Steve was his friend and he doesn't want to see a movie about his friend that contains painful truths. Unless you knew Steve personally I don't really see how your opinion fits into any of this.
  • Reply 15 of 164
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post



    If Steve Jobs were alive this wouldn't happen.

     

    An ultimate irony! The best use of this meme quote ever.

  • Reply 16 of 164
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I have zero interest in this movie. I hated the Social Network so I'm sure I would hate this too. Plus there was zero cooperation from anyone at Apple and little to no focus of Steve Jobs after he came back to Apple. We have way too many incomplete pictures of the man. Walter Isaacson's book didn't focus enough on the NeXT/Pixar years and most other books/movies focus very little on Steve once he came back to Apple. So you get a lot of Steve the asshole but not Steve the loving husband, father and friend.
  • Reply 17 of 164
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    wigby wrote: »
    What
    What are you talking about? This is one of hundreds of documentaries, biographies and dramas about Steve Jobs, most not released yet. He's a historical figure like Lincoln or Edison except more relevant. Why would we let him rest in peace and not create tons of movies and books about him?

    And what's your hangup on truth and facts. Tim Cook doesn't have a problem with these movies because they're all lies, he has a problem with them because Steve was his friend and he doesn't want to see a movie about his friend that contains painful truths. Unless you knew Steve personally I don't really see how your opinion fits into any of this.

    What are the painful truth represented in this movie? Doesn't sound like there's much truth in this movie at all.
  • Reply 18 of 164
    sog35 wrote: »
    Why couldn't Sorkin just make a movie about a fictional character influenced by the life of Steve Jobs?

    Because Sorkin is opportunitstic and wants to take advantage of Steve Jobs name.

    If it was opportunistic it would be two movies called "The Startup Games: Mockingjobs, Part I and Part II." ;)
  • Reply 19 of 164
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,515member
    wigby wrote: »

    Tim Cook doesn't have a problem with these movies because they're all lies, he has a problem with them because Steve was his friend and he doesn't want to see a movie about his friend that contains painful truths. Unless you knew Steve personally I don't really see how your opinion fits into any of this.

    ". . . contains painful truths." How about "contains ridiculous dramatic distortions"?

    The problem is that people will go to this movie and come out thinking they understand Steve Jobs, when in truth they'll be getting a mythological caricature. They will be further from the truth. I would think that would be the painful part for Tim Cook or others in the company.
  • Reply 20 of 164
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    rogifan wrote: »
    I have zero interest in this movie. I hated the Social Network so I'm sure I would hate this too. Plus there was zero cooperation from anyone at Apple and little to no focus of Steve Jobs after he came back to Apple. We have way too many incomplete pictures of the man. Walter Isaacson's book didn't focus enough on the NeXT/Pixar years and most other books/movies focus very little on Steve once he came back to Apple. So you get a lot of Steve the asshole but not Steve the loving husband, father and friend.

    1) Why does Apple need to be involved when we're talking about publicly available information about the essence of a man, wrapped inside a three-part film of fictionalized behind-the-sceens dramatizations right before three major unveilings in his life? This is the best idea I've heard to capture Steve as a person in terms of flaws, focus, inspiration, vision, and his growth.

    2) You want a story about Jobs after he gave Apple a monopoly on mindshare? You think that would be enjoyable since we all already know about Steve Jobs during those years. How about we wait a generations or two before we have a movie about Steve Jobs in 2010. unveiling the iPad.

    flaneur wrote: »
    ". . . contains painful truths." How about "contains ridiculous dramatic distortions"?

    What have you seen about this film that can be defined a ridiculous distortion? From the trailers and my long history of what I've read it all seems to fit with how I'd describe the man.
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