Full credit to Aaron Sorkin; with Steve Jobs he manages to solve the structural problems plaguing most biopics, which struggle to accommodate the scope of a human life in a neat three act narrative. How? By literally structuring the film as three acts – three product launches – across which we come to know our subject.
Michael Fassbender plays Jobs with all the depth and forcefulness you’d expect; while I kinda wish he’d step outside his charming-but-nefarious/megalomaniacal wheelhouse, he undeniably does good work in there. His supporting cast – Winslet, Rogen, Waterston, Daniels – all take to the script’s supremely Sorkin-esque dialogue with similar confidence.
Director Danny Boyle isn’t as suited to the West Wing scribe’s predilections. Boyle’s bombastic, restless depiction of the Apple co-founder’s schemes and struggles inadvertently reveals the limitations of the screenplay. One can forgive the oft-clumsy exposition as a structural shortcoming, the insistence of the dialogue to always be about The Steve Jobs is exhausting.
As a nuanced character study, Steve Jobs fails; too much explained, too little implied. When the film delves into interpersonal drama – which is remarkably often – it succeeds as a showcase for good old fashioned theatrical excess. This ain’t an iPhone, but it’s no Newton, either.
4 thoughts on “Steve Jobs (2015)”
I also had mixed feelings. Michael Fassbender gives an incredible performance , no question. However the story is incredble repetitive in the 2nd and 3rd acts. For example, when Seth Rogen (as Steve Wozniak) pops up for the umpteenth time to say, “Recognize the Apple II team!!” I was going to smack him.
Hey Dave, saw this one recently – quite liked it, though I had a couple of issues, which you’ve also noted in your review.
Interested by your thought that Boyle’s direction reveals the limitations of the screenplay, however, I don’t think it’s Boyle’s fault. With an excess of expositional dialogue, it felt like there was little breathing room left for a director to accommodate enough implicative techniques to provide a well-rounded a character study. I think Boyle managed to stage each scene competently but according to a pretty rigid script that would perhaps be better suited to the stage (especially with its three act structure). When you say bombastic, are you referring to his visual style or merely his ability to orchestrate a scene?
I agree that the screenplay is the problem; it’s so relentless didactic that it overwhelms the visuals. Because of that, I think it would only really worked if staged more subtly – as you say, on an actual stage, or with more restraint behind the visuals. Boyle’s need to ‘jazz up’ every second scene – whether projecting onto a backdrop or setting a dramatic confrontation on a dark, storm night – feels like its striving for meaning that the screenplay can’t offer … if that makes sense? I think the director and screenwriter are just ill-suited to one another…
Hmm yeah I agree, probably not the best match (Fassbender was great, but would’ve loved to have seen the Fincher/Bale version initially developed).
It was as if Boyle felt the need to ‘jazz up’ scenes in some instances because of the predominant backstage setting, which I guess can come across as quite plain and impersonal. Having said that, I liked the way he staged a scene during an argument between Steve and Joanna, they were seemingly surrounded by dressing room mirrors and lights, in a way using the production design to reflect the inescapable state of Steve’s vanity – or something along those lines. The film might be problematic, but I like that it’s still got me thinking about it!