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Review: Steve Jobs

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No matter what you think of the man himself, there is no denying that Steve Jobs has been revolutionary.  He has changed the way we use computers.  He’s changed the way we listen to music, hell he changed the music industry period.  The inventions put forth by Mr. Jobs have even changed the way we interact with each other, and our technology (Siri, am I right?).  You only need to look at the post-it note messages from admirers that were placed on Apple store windows world wide upon his passing to know the impact this man had on the world.  However, his biopic is much more about the impact he had on those closest to him and how his business methods, his successes and failures, changed his relationships, and the man himself. 

Zoom in on 1984.  Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is preparing for the product launch of the Mac computer following on the heels of the success of the Apple II.  An excited crowd is waiting for him to take the stage, but we follow him as he discusses an inconvenient demo crash with his friend and colleague, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet).  He also has an argument with the mother of his child Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and showed his daughter just what the Mac could do.  In the minutes leading up to his presentation he also meets with his friend and partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and the CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels).  It is these pre-launch countdowns and these figures that make up the bulk of the film, spanning from 1984 to 1998 as Jobs travels on his road to eventual technological domination.

STEVE JOBS is a story not told just through words, but told through conversation.  This should not be a huge surprise considering those conversations were conceived through a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, the wordsmith behind The Social Network, and TV’s The West Wing.  In fact, some of the hallway conversations are reminiscent of Bradley Whitford’s scenes from the seven-season success.  However those who like Sorkin’s style of writing won’t be disappointed here.  The idea of creating a film surrounding three iconic product launches is kind of ingenious, and the ability to keep it interesting is largely due to Sorkin’s work.

No matter the screenplay, STEVE JOBS would not be successful without an actor able to fulfill his complex personality (remember Ashton Kutcher playing the Apple titan a couple years ago?).  Michael Fassbender portrays Jobs beautifully, able switch between a funny, likeable man in conversation one moment and then be a condescending, arrogant, stubborn man the next.  His acting is as focused as you can imagine Jobs was in his goals.  The supporting cast of Winslet, Daniels and Rogen do a good job of demonstrating how much Jobs could hurt those closest to him, and yet how his ideas and brilliance still, in some ways, commanded loyalty.

Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) should be proud of his finished product here, a focused and mature tone to contrast with some of his other projects.  His style and slick editing make the time jumps seem appropriate and keep a three-act division seamless.  You have to wonder whether Boyle got some inspiration from former Oscar winner Birdman, as many of the scenes following Jobs and Hoffman through the backstage passages of theatres are similarly paced and shot.  As with Birdman, the walking shots work, allowing the audience to feel as if they’re part of the entourage.

As I write this review on my MacBook, listening to my iTunes playlist, with my iPad and iPhone not far from my side, I am reminded of just how much Steve Jobs has influenced my life.  He assembled a team of experts with the goal of changing the world, and he largely succeeded. Even in his death, the line-ups outside the Apple Store every time a new product is launched demonstrate his legacy.  In the film, Jobs says, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”  Perhaps STEVE JOBS is the same.  I didn’t know I would enjoy a film about a man who was in essence a business world rock star, until I saw it.  Now that I have seen it, I’m certainly glad it exists.

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