I was glad I wasn’t the only person interested in the 10am Saturday session of this movie at the Palace Cinema Como. It’s no fun being by yourself in an empty cinema, as I found out last year. Luckily, two more people showed up to sit behind me mid-commercials, and even better, they turned out to be a nice quiet couple who didn’t act as if they were watching Netflix at home, so I didn’t have to shush or employ a basilisk stare.
I had very little interest in the subject of the movie, and only got attracted by the talent involved: written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Danny Boyle and starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet, both huge favourites of mine. Though I use the hell out of my iPod nano, I’m not an Apple disciple and Steve Jobs as a public person only really registered with me after his resignation and the subsequent death. Besides, I practically grew up with PCs and though my chosen industry is dominated by Macs and my fellow designers all but hiss and cross themselves when PCs are mentioned, Macs to me are just not real computers. Though I fully admit that those colourful first generation iMacs I got to work on at uni were a thing of beauty that made my home PC look like a lumbering monster. I don’t care what anyone says though, a proper computer must have a big clunky tower dammit!
Steve Jobs somewhat follows the traditional rise-fall-rise biopic formula, but does so in a refreshingly non-traditional manner, focusing on the backstage happenings of three key product launches: the MacIntosh computer in 1984; the NeXT cube in 1988; and the iMac in 1998. Despite some stylistic flourishes from Danny Boyle here and there, this is very much a Sorkin movie, with the characters spitting out his particular brand of uber-articulate, hyperactive dialogue. I’ve seen comments that David Fincher, who directed The Social Network, another Sorkin-penned film about an abrasive technological visionary, would have been a better pick, but I’m not sure if he would have brought the same feeling of humanity to the movie that Boyle did, especially to the scenes between Jobs and his estranged daughter whose paternity he had initially denied. They do a lot to add human touches to this portrait of a deeply flawed, “badly made” person, though the bit where Jobs promises Lisa to put all of her favourite music on one device is bordering on too cute and on the nose.
When I first heard that Fassbender was cast as Steve Jobs, my reaction was the same as probably most people’s: eh? He looks absolutely nothing like Steve Jobs. Watching the actual movie, he still looks nothing like the guy, but the sheer force and energy of his performance overrides this incredulity scene to scene, moment to moment. It’s not a very flattering portrayal, but even when he’s being a total cruel asshole to the people around him Fassbender’s Jobs is just utterly compelling to watch, and I got the sense that his brutal, uncompromising quality attracted people in his life as much as it appalled them. It also helps that he actually does come to look a lot more like Jobs in the final third, when Jobs hit his iconic black-turtleneck-and-jeans-with-glasses look. Despite a wandering Polish accent, Kate Winslet is fantastic as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs’ unwaveringly loyal if constantly exasperated head of marketing, who is not afraid to butt heads with her boss. Their intense but entirely platonic relationship was one of the film’s highlights for me. Jeff Daniels (as Apple CEO John Sculley) and Seth Rogen (as Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak) are also solid in their supporting turns. The film overall didn’t quite hit the heights of The Social Network (a perfectly executed movie if there ever was one), but it’s easily one of the best and most entertaining biopics I’ve seen.