Cinestudio preview: “Steve Jobs” shows man and myth

“Steve Jobs” grasps for the kind of formula that brought screenwriter Aaron Sorkin his most recent success in “The Social Network” and director Danny Boyle an Academy Award for Best Director in “Slumdog Millionaire.” The film contains the necessary elements to warrant early Oscar buzz, such as Aaron Sorkin’s trademark sequences of witty dialogue or Michael Fassbender’s superior performance—it lacks, however, in other aspects of the film.
“Steve Jobs” follows a three-part narrative arc beginning with the 1984 Apple Macintosh launch, Job’s 1988 NeXT computer launch, and finally the coup de grâce—the premier of the popular IMac in 1988 (cleverly filmed in 16mm film for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and digital for 1998). Sorkin, Boyle, and Fassbender make no allusions to historical accuracy in the film, and instead present to viewers partial criticism of a character whose reputation as the genius co-founder of Apple is offset by his unapologetic ego and self-aggrandizement. However, the effect of criticism is only partly achieved as in typical Hollywood fashion, the unlikable Jobs is redeemed as father and salesman following the IMac premier where viewers are left only to fathom the heights his company will reach in the following years. Sorkin’s screenplay provides an originally flawed conception of Jobs as a peer and family man, but at the cost of historical accuracy and a truly strong ending.
In its most profound moments, Boyle’s direction and the acting performances of Fassbender and Seth Rogen emerge as the film’s most powerful elements. While it has been noted that Fassbender hardly looks like the real life Steve Jobs, his slightly affected speaking voice gives the actor an air of arrogance and ambition, while Rogen provides an unexpectedly strong performance as co-founder, Steve Wozniak. In the film, Wozniak fulfills the role of moral compass to Jobs’ eccentric and selfish behavior as co-founder of Apple and estranged father to his alleged daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Kate Winslet does a serviceable job as Joanna Hoffman, a marketing executive at Apple who performs a similar role to Rogen’s in her orbital relationship to the Steve Jobs ego. As such, the three-part narrative follows a relatively predictable sequence of events with the 1984 launch contrasting Jobs’ denial of his daughter, the unsuccessful NeXT launch, and finally the IMac success brought to fulfilment with Jobs’ redemption as a father. To his credit, Boyle weaves the oftentimes busy dialogue with strong direction, but the viewer can be overwhelmed by the overload of conversation.
While the family dynamic and near failure of Apple are resolved in the final installment depicting the 1998 premier of the IMac, the film leaves viewers at this point in time without a clear picture of Jobs as a human or a genius inventor. Throughout the whole movie, Jobs takes steps to accepting his role as a father, but balks at nearly every turn, exposing the man’s well noted tendency for petty behavior (such as his refusal to financially support Lisa and her mother, Chrisann Brennan). Additionally, Jobs’ failure to recognize the efforts of his employees and the failure of the NeXT computer lead Wozniak to bluntly exhort to Jobs, “What is it that you do here?”
In its conclusion, the film effectively forgives the man for years of absentee parenthood and egotism that hampered his companies for decades, in light of the success of the IMac in 1998. This is an unfortunate point of resolution by Sorkin, as the iPod had an arguably larger influence on the electronic world compared to the iMac. Sorkin appears to weave a story of tortured genius and amazing success emerging from unfortunate circumstances—but does so in a relatively formulaic way that pales in comparison to the nuance of “The Social Network.” Strong direction and acting performance give the film a Shakespearean feeling of loss and redemption, limiting the effect of criticism that gave Sorkin’s picture of Mark Zuckerberg such salience. “Steve Jobs” will be playing at Cinestudio Dec. 3-6.

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