The just-opened Steve Jobs film, written by the incomparable Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) and directed by Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame is clearly one of the best, written, directed and acted films this year.
The film stars Michael Fassbender, who, it’s true, does not superficially resemble Steve Jobs, per se.
However, over the course of the film, Fassbender embodies the essence of the Apple co-founder: His visionary brilliance, his creative, strategic and tactical genius, and his obsessive/compulsive laser-like focus.
But he also portrays Jobs’ near pathological indifference and cold-hearted insensitivity to his friends, his colleagues and most dramatically, his own family, including the mother of his daughter Lisa, who is Jobs’ “Rosebud” in this gripping Citizen Kane-like story.
Fassbender as Jobs is ably supported by his smart, long-suffering marketing executive, closest colleague, “work wife” and conscience, Joanna Hoffman, played marvelously by Kate Winslet, who is totally unrecognizable in the role.
Other excellent supporting actors are Seth Rogan as Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ Apple co-founder; the technical brains behind Apple, “Woz” is clearly too sweetly loyal and good-natured for the “kill or be killed” tech environment. Jeff Daniels plays John Sculley, who initially played father figure to Jobs in Apple — then fired Jobs from his own company and was vilified the rest of his life for that decision.
But the film really belongs to Fassbender and the brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin.
This is not your normal linear, chronological biopic.
Instead, it is a brilliantly filmed play in three acts. The dialogue snaps, crackles and pops. The pace is fast and loose and frenetic. Think of Sorkin’s The West Wing, but faster and more dramatic, with greater and emotional mood swings.
This film focuses on three “launch” events: the iconic debut of the original Macintosh computer; Jobs’ unveiling of Black Cube at his post-Apple company; and Jobs’ triumphant return to Apple with the invention of the iMac.
Before each launch, Jobs — always accompanied by his loyal marketing exec, Hoffman — is visited by the same four characters: the mother of his child, pleading for money and recognition of their child; Woz, whose star has been clearly eclipsed by Jobs in the public eye; and Sculley, both commanding and classy, but ultimately a pathetic tragic figure.
For me, the core of the film is Jobs’ interaction with his daughter, Lisa, whom, in the first act, he cruelly rejects as his daughter, even scoffing at the notion that the early Apple “Lisa” computer was named after her.
However, Jobs gradually comes to see his better self in his daughter. She embodies his brilliance, but also his goodness, which has been buried beneath a lot of bad emotional baggage and a history of neglect and abandonment.
As the proud father of a daughter, the heart-wrenching scenes between Jobs and Lisa left me teary-eyed.
Jobs’ treatment of his chief engineer Hertzfeld and of Woz verges on the pathologically cruel. But in Sorkin’s expert hands, we at least understand what drives Jobs to be the person he is. We may not like him, but we understand him and still revere his incredible marketing acumen and his world-shaking technological achievements — he was “ the brilliant conductor who leads the orchestra.”
Sorkin has done it again. I urge you to see this film at least once. And perhaps twice or three times, in order to catch and appreciate the brilliance of the dialogue and understand what demons drove Jobs to the incredible achievements that impacted us all.