CAPSULE: The major technical and personal milestones in Steve Jobs' life are woven into what is really a three-act play. The performance experience is intense and unrelenting, though word of mouth says that it is not particularly accurate. One cannot understand Steve Jobs without understanding some of his conflicts. In this film, however, there is little to him but conflict, and that can be somewhat tiresome to watch. Danny Boyle directs a script by Aaron Sorkin based on the book of the same name by Walter Isaacson. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
There is no arguing the fact that Steve Jobs was a creative genius. Slightly less well-known is that he was totally unpleasant at times, and frequently totally reprehensible. This film presents jigsaw pieces to be put together to tell a somewhat incomplete portrait of the man. We see his tactics dealing with competitors, his tactics dealing with the people who worked on his projects, and his tactics dealing with his ex-girlfriend and her daughter by Jobs himself. Just having so much tactics in life does not speak well of his character. You feel that if you knew him he would have his own tactics in dealing with you.
The format of the film is a play in three acts, each act the drama that happens in the half hour or so just before Jobs is to go on stage before a large audience and announce for the first time the release of some new technical marvel that is going to re-shape the market. The idea that all this drama will take place in the three short intervals is a dramatic conceit. You might expect it with a stage play, but in a film it announces that there may be a bit of tampering with reality. Each of this film's three acts take place is what appears to be real-time except for a little bit of flashbacking. The idea that this drama is all taking place in just these few minutes is almost comical to imagine. Since these short intervals of time have to cover so much about the title character, they are performed in a rapid-fire staccato of arguments and ideas. The dialog is colorful, but a little too well-expressed to be believed. Characters are portrayed as so very eloquent for having ready-formed responses for arguments with the fast-thinking Jobs. Dealing with Jobs comes off as having been painful and demanding. One can only feel relief when the 122 minutes with Jobs comes to its end. The 2013 film JOBS, covering the same territory, may not objectively be as good a film, but it is far more pleasant to experience.
The film makes the assumption that the viewer will be interested in some of the technical issues discussed. This may be a mistake since many of the viewers will get lost on issues like the speed of a Pentium chip or why a stylus on a device is a total design failure. Actually, with most electronic tech what the public wants to know is if it works and what it can do. Behind-the-scenes technical struggles are not unique to the electronics industry. And disagreement over technical details does not make good film drama. In general the public attitude is that if the soup tastes good, they do not care what a labor the chef had making it.
Jobs is played as demanding and uncompromising. He is worth billions, but he lets his ex-girlfriend live with their daughter on $385 a month because he can take that privilege. Michael Fassbender gives a pounding performance as the reprehensible Jobs, though he has looks very different from those of Jobs, so that I never lost myself in the character. On the other hand, Kate Winslet is playing the less familiar Joanna Hoffman but she is hard to recognize as being Winslet.
Is the two hours of argument worth sitting through? That depends on the viewer. If you are looking for a more pleasant expose, see Joshua Michael Stern's JOBS. The latter is not a great film, but it makes the history and gossip about Jobs more pleasant and is perhaps more accurate. I rate Danny Boyle's STEVE JOBS a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2080374/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/steve_jobs_2015/
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2015 Mark R. Leeper