I like to think that a film’s cultural legacy isn’t heavily tied to its box office earnings, and I particularly hope this is true in the case of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs. While it has been mostly lauded by critics, the film has also gained an overwhelming wave of press due to ‘bombing’ at the US box office. That’s not the story I want people to remember when they think of this film.
Instead, I want people to praise Aaron Sorkin’s intelligent and unique script and offer standing ovations to the brilliant cast. I want them to applaud Danny Boyle’s decision to offer us a very untraditional biopic, a risky move, but one that in my opinion has greatly paid off. Here’s five reasons to watch Steve Jobs.
5. A structure like no other
While most biopics tend to lean towards conventional birth to adulthood structures, Sorkin’s riveting script eschews this method, instead opting to concentrate on three distinct moments in Jobs’ career. The first takes place in 1984 as Jobs is backstage at the product launch of the Macintosh, before jumping to 1988 after Jobs and Apple have parted ways, where once again we find Jobs backstage readying the launch of his latest creation: the NeXTcube. The final act takes place in 1998, where Jobs is in a better place backstage before the release of the iMac. The film moves at a surprisingly timely pace, thanks in part to the heavy personal dramas that Jobs has to deal with in each act. The launches are merely a front for the more juicy parts, as colleagues, family and friends battle with the impossible: a man so ruthlessly determined to see his vision come to life.
4. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay
Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is known far and wide for writing rapid fire dialogue and long monologues, and his screenplay for Steve Jobs is no exception to this style. What it is, however, is exceptional. If you’re informed enough to understand the tech-speak it’s a bonus, but what really stands out in Steve Jobs are the subtle moments in between. The tense scenes between Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), and the softer yet engrossing moments with Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) are particular stand outs, with sharp dialogue moving from heartbreaking and fraught to funny and insightful. It’s an almost impossible task to write dialogue for a man as unique and intelligent as Jobs, but what Sorkin does succeed at is capturing the Apple co-founder’s infamous indifference to being liked and uncompromising desire to change the world. I doubt that those who never knew Jobs personally will ever truly understand him, but with Sorkin’s screenplay we are given a wonderfully complex portrait of a brilliant but flawed man.
3. An electric score
Daniel Pemberton has had quite the year having composed the scores for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Steve Jobs, the latter of which presented a new challenge thanks to an unusually long and dialogue-heavy 185-page script (the industry standard is 120). However, Pemberton brilliantly upped his game with a score that beautifully complemented the three acts which director Danny Boyle describes as “Vision”, “Revenge” and “Wisdom”. From smatterings of 80s-inspired digital sounds to grand orchestral pieces, Pemberton is without a doubt due a nomination for best score come awards season.
2. A bold performance from Kate Winslet
There’s a reason why everyone wants to work with Kate Winslet. She’s the best of the best with an exquisite ability to transform with every role. This is also true of her latest performance as Joanna Hoffman – an original member of the Apple Computer Macintosh team and one of few people who could stand up to Steve Jobs. The relationship between Jobs and Hoffman is the most honest in the entire film, given the former’s respect for the latter and his willingness to listen to her when it matters. Winslet is a breath of fresh air as Hoffman, and her chemistry with Fassbender has left me wishing that these two big talents will work together again soon.
1. The essence of a genius brought to life
Steve Jobs is a man few understood or knew completely, so it’s hard to imagine how an actor could endeavour to correctly portray the Apple genius. What Michael Fassbender does so well is capture the essence of Jobs through three drama-fuelled acts, revealing a man that simply doesn’t fit anywhere on the hero/villain scale, but on another plane entirely. Fassbender’s delivery of every unbelievably condescending line hits the right mark, while the few tender moments with his daughter Lisa reveal a new layer to the man we thought we knew.
Steve Jobs is currently playing in UK cinemas and will be released in Australia and NZ January 2016.