By Jack Ryan, Senior Staff Writer
Like the man it represents, the umpteenth cinematic exploration of late Apple CEO, “Steve Jobs,” is anything but conventional.
“Steve Jobs” follows a very non-traditional plot structure, particularly for a biopic, preferring a three-act play structure over the archetypal life-sweeping narrative. The entirety of the film, save for a few brief flashbacks, takes place prior to three huge product launches — two for Apple, and one for Jobs’ brief company, NeXT.
In each of these 40-minute sections, three incarnations of Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) hectically move through the various matters at hand, ranging from fixing a demo Mac not saying ‘Hello’ to screaming arguments with the mother of the girl he denies as his daughter. These dramatized acts give us insight into the life of the prolific patriarch, both as a leader and as a human.
This Steve Jobs is nothing like the slightly scruffy, black-turtleneck-adorning visage that covered magazine and newspaper covers over the past 15 years. Here, we see Steve at a much more personal level — passionate, cunning, genius, but, ultimately, an imperfect perfectionist. For every endearing moment, there are three more that make us question his sanity and morality.
As Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) remarks, “You can be both gifted and decent at the same time. It’s not binary.”
Michael Fassbender is one of the greatest actors of his generation, and solidifies this claim in “Steve Jobs.” While he doesn’t share the uncanny resemblance to the Apple icon that Ashton Kutcher did, Fassbender is absolutely riveting in each of the time frames shown. He evolves naturally, both showing the minute warmth in a 29-year-old industry punk to revealing the old spite in a much gentler version of himself at 43.
While Fassbender undoubtedly steals the show as Jobs himself, the cast of “Steve Jobs” is captivating in their camouflage as the various associates.
Here, Seth Rogen trades out his goofy nature for a more dramatic, yet amiable demeanor as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Kate Winslet balances competitive focus and an almost maternal patience in playing Jobs’ marketing executive Joanna Hoffman. As former Apple CEO John Sculley, Jeff Daniels shows more of the intensity that won him an Emmy for Sorkin’s, “The Newsroom.” Katherine Watterson and Michael Stuhlbarg both prove themselves in major supporting parts as well, as Job’s former girlfriend and his coworker, respectively.
The acting in “Steve Jobs” is so honest and powerful that I could see each and every actor listed here being nominated for major awards in a few months.
Before anything else, however, “Steve Jobs” is the creation of master screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”), whose signature rapid-fire dialogue style continues to amaze. Impressive and memorable lines are unloaded by the minute, with the plot gradually building on top of previous transgressions.
While the key word for “Steve Jobs” is dramatized — despite many truths, this is ultimately a work of fiction — it is similar to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s previous feature, “The Social Network,” in its pure admiration and reservation of judgment towards its subject.
Contrary to public fret prior to release, director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) does not completely subside to the vision of Aaron Sorkin. Boyle complements the small ticks of Sorkin’s writing with interesting visual nuances, which are sometimes jaw dropping in their beauty.
Sorkin and Boyle may not be as great a duo as the former and Fincher, but they certainly have their own style that succeeds wonderfully in itself.
Steve Jobs died in 2011, but the film doesn’t remind you of this sorrow in a clinging “Where Are They Now” montage, nor obituary. Rather, Sorkin and Boyle leave us with an image of Jobs basking in the flashing lights of the future, peering offstage in a look of love.
Regardless of his headstrong personality and abundance of flaws, this is how we have, and always will, remember him — the leader of the status quo, the lover of difference, the martyr of the digital age.
He is immortal, for better or for worse.