Two thoughts came to mind after watching Steve Jobs. The first was sensational. In adapting Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography, Academy Award winners Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) have taken the tried and true bio pic formula and given it an innovative shot of creative adrenaline. Instead of adhering to the narrative device that follows the chronological events of their subject’s life, Sorkin’s script about the computer visionary focuses on three specific product launches – the 1984 launch of Macintosh, the NeXT computer launch in 1988, and the introduction of the iMac in 1998 – that were pivotal in Jobs’ life. Each event takes place in a specific location, and Sorkin takes a huge risk by incorporating various details from Jobs’ life into those specific days, events that definitely did not happen on the days being written about. This makes Steve Jobs more of a conceptual bio-pic than a traditional one like Ray or I Walk the Line.
All three acts are like short films, connected by the same six characters that intersect with Jobs (the impeccable Michael Fassbender) as he prepares to rock the world. Those people are Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Jobs’ confidant, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), co-founder of Apple, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), CEO of Apple from 1983-1993, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), a member of the original Mac team, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterson), Jobs’ ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter, and most importantly Lisa Brennan (portrayed at different ages by Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine) Jobs’ daughter.
Each actor rises to the challenge of Sorkin’s machine gun rapid dialogue, and each give performances worthy of numerous Academy Awards, not just the two nominations given to Fasbbender for Best Actor and Winslet for Best Supporting Actress. The cast speaks in the florid, poetic paragraphs that are a trademark of Aaron Sorkin, dialogue that is sometimes more like a theater production than a film screenplay. It falls on Boyle’s shoulders to make these three acts cinematic. Boyle, one of this generation’s most underappreciated directors, capably lifts the material to great heights.
One of his wisest decisions was to film in the actual buildings where these product launches took place, bringing a verisimilitude to the project that may not have been captured had the film been done on a soundstage. Another wise choice was to shoot Steve Jobs in three different film stocks, giving each one its own unique feel and style. Act 1, 1984, is shot in 16MM. It has an edge to it that comes with the graininess of the smaller film size blown up to 35MM. Act 2 is shot in 35MM, and has a beautiful, rich fluidness to it. Finally, 1998, Act 3, is shot in HD with a crisp, pristine look. Credit Director of Photography Alwin Kuchler for suggesting the multiple looks to the film, it pays off wonderfully.
I don’t hesitate to say that I feel that Steve Jobs is one of the finest films you will see from 2015. Critics across the nation agreed. As for audiences… well, that brings me to my other thought after watching the film: confusion. How is it that such a fine piece of filmmaking, one that is smart, funny, vastly entertaining, and so human get overlooked by mass audiences? Steve Jobs came in like a lion, and disappeared like a lamb from movie theaters. The poor box office showing seemed to have an effect on Oscar voters, as the movie was overlooked by the film industry, as well. Each year it seems there is one movie that is forgotten before it has an opportunity to get discovered. It’s strange to say that a movie like this one, released by Universal, a huge corporate entity, would fall into that category. However, I believe that if you watch Steve Jobs (and I highly recommend that you do), you will come away thinking that it’s one of the finest films of 2015 and possibly the last decade.
Steve Jobs is available now in Digital HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand.
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