“You can be decent and gifted at the same time.”
That painful line from Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) dominates Steve Jobs, Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s eventually successful portrait of the late Apple co-founder.
Structured more as a three-act play than a conventional biopic, the movie (opening today) compresses the major beats of Jobs’s life into three product launches ... none of which are the iPod or the iPhone. (Spoiler alert: the allusion to the iPod near the movie’s end weirdly evokes the Joker card appearance at the conclusion of Batman Begins.)
Instead, it’s a movie about very, very slight redemption, mixed with Sorkin’s penchant for breathlessly quick dialogue and Boyle’s visual acumen. It’s not always successful. Whereas Sorkin’s The Social Network was able to use location and time-hopping to help move a rather dry story about litigation along, Jobs is confined to three stages and three backstage tiffs between our titular “hero” and, well, everyone.
“I’m more comfortable as a playwright,” explains Sorkin, who spoke at an industry screening we attended on Monday — the same day, perhaps ironically, that marked the four-year anniversary of Steve Jobs’s passing. “I like claustrophobic spaces, compressed periods of time and things that are behind the scenes. And this movie is literally behind the scenes.”
Whether you buy the redemptive angle of the movie — Can a troubled genius make good with his estranged daughter? — is up to you. Sorkin’s screenplay attempts to paint Jobs (played by the always-excellent Michael Fassbender) as full of self-hatred, as “someone who thought they didn’t deserve love,” thanks to his foster-child upbringing.
A few stray observations:
The movie, thankfully, does not give much justification to Jobs’ reprehensible behavior toward his daughter (whom he initially disowns), Woz or his ex-paramour. Startup founders and alpha males, take note.
The film is definitely “impressionistic,” as the Q&A moderator put it after the screening. And self-aware. At one point, Jobs notes that he can’t believe that it’s always right before product launches when everyone decides to share their real feelings about him.
You will never hear more about Jobs' NeXT computer in your life. Far more than you needed to.
It’s a solid flick, even if Boyle himself seemed unsure after the film. “How do you depict genius?” he mused during the interview. But he made one particularly valid point. “The world is changing beyond recognition,” he explained. “And these are the people that have to be written about and examined.”
Warts and all.