BFI London Film Festival: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Katherine Waterston

by Joanna Orland

What Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin have created with the Steve Jobs biopic can only be described as a Jobs well done.  The film was initially tainted by a long and complicated development process, with director David Fincher (The Social Network) first attached to direct, and Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio among the stars rumoured to be vying for the title role.  Eventually Sorkin’s script fell into the hands of Danny Boyle, with Michael Fassbender cast to give an outstanding performance as the man himself, Steve Jobs.

The script and the performances drive this film and make it the thrilling powerhouse drama that it is.  Danny Boyle’s directing is solid and theatrical, but a slight mismatch to Sorkin’s writing style.  I reckon I would have preferred this film with Fincher at the helm as his tone and style suit Sorkin’s more seamlessly. Even so, Boyle holds his own, his strongest idea being the filming style of the three acts of this film.  The first act takes place in 1984 as Jobs prepares to unveil the Mac.  This segment is shot on 16mm film to give a grainier, older look to the picture.  The second act is set in 1988 as Jobs split from Apple to launch NeXT.  This act is filmed on 35mm to represent Jobs’ progression.  The final act is filmed in digital to represent how Jobs is about to revolutionize the technology industry in 1998 with the iMac.

What makes this biopic unique to others is that it is admittedly fiction.  The characters and key events are true to life, but the dialogue and setups are fiction and exist merely to create a portrait of Steve Jobs, rather than to recount his life.  By dividing the film into three acts and revisiting Jobs’ key relationships years apart, this dialogue-heavy film feels more like a theatrical production than a cinematic one.  Sorkin gives a knowing nod to this fictionalized setup, as Jobs notes the uncanny similarities of his colleagues’ behaviour every time he’s about to give an important presentation.

The script is excellent.  While touching upon some Apple geekery that perhaps only Apple fanboys and girls will appreciate, the film stretches beyond that to fully develop a depiction of Steve Jobs the man.  The film is nearly wall to wall dialogue, and for the better as this script is very clever.  And fascinating.  And in the hands of these fantastic actors, it is brought to life in a compelling fashion.

Michael Fassbender has the charisma and power to fully embody the role of Steve Jobs.  He captures the essence of the man, the genius and the megalomania perfectly, and I would be surprised if he wasn’t recognized for this achievement come awards season.  Fassbender isn’t the only one to electrify Sorkin’s words, but the entire cast give outstanding performances.  Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman is perfection as she holds her own as the only person able to stand up to Steve Jobs.  Katherine Waterston is endearing as mother of Jobs’ child Lisa.  Michael Stuhlbarg is hilariously charming as one of the two Andys, Hertzfeld.  Jeff Daniels, who is an old hand at Aaron Sorkin acting, is wonderful as John Sculley.  Seth Rogen is surprisingly the perfect casting choice as Steve Wozniak, with my main complaint being that there is not at all enough of the Woz in this film!  Seth is clearly trying to show up his buddy Jonah Hill in the comedic actor turned dramatic department.

In spite of this odd pairing of Boyle and Sorkin, the script and performances thrive to paint a picture of one of the most important figures of our time.

Steve Jobs press conference coverage from the 59th BFI London Film Festival.



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