There’s no denying that director Danny Boyle knows how to stage a spectacle (Olympics 2012) and is a dab hand at filmic flourishes, but he’s taken on a real challenge with this movie, mainly because of its format.
Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) was the charismatic genius behind Apple and the movie follows him backstage before the launches of three separate products.
The movie begins as he and his chief engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) and marketing manager Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) fret because the computer that is meant to welcome the audience with a cheery ‘hello’ is stubbornly refusing to say anything at all. Hertfeld says there’s no time to fix it; Jobs says he’d better fix it or his failure will be publicly announced from the stage.
This beautifully scripted (by no less than Aaron Sorkin) exchange marks the format for the rest of the movie, which basically follows Jobs as he has verbal spats with his team, his CEO (Jeff Daniels), his ex-lover, and his best friend, the other Steve (Wozniak played by Seth Rogan). Throughout these exchanges it soon becomes clear that even though he is a genius, Jobs is also a real shit when it comes to getting what he wants. He will not give an inch and if you stand in his way he will walk right through you to get to his objective. It doesn’t matter if you are friend or family, if you cross him you will become his foe.
It soon becomes clear that even though he is a genius, Jobs is also a real shit
As he alienates everyone around him, it is Joanna who is left to pick up the pieces, which she does with a masterly mix of patience and frustration beautifully portrayed by Winslet. In fact, all the performances are excellent. Even though he doesn’t really look like Steve Jobs, Fassbender absolutely inhabits his skin here, Daniels has real gravitas and weight as the CEO, while Rogen is perfect as the long-suffering Wozniak (who gets to tell Jobs: “It’s not binary, you can be decent and gifted at the same time.”)
It’s not the acting that lets the film down but that tricky format of no physical action and an awful lot of words. This is a movie top-heavy with dialogue and even if the conversations fair whizz and ping there are times where, as a viewer, you find yourself zoning out (although this doesn’t really affect the plot because there isn’t really any plot to speak of).
This is a movie that more resembles a stage play than a cinematic experience and while it’s clever and witty and intelligent, one does wonder if Danny Boyle had opened up the structure of the film a little, or maybe added a bit more action, it would have been a more engaging experience.