If there was ever a film I really wanted to see this year, this one was definitely in that list. I love the idea of this film, not just because it’s a film to tell the life of one of the great innovators of the 20th Century, but the fact this film is being directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin whose previous credits include ‘The Social Network’ and ‘A Few Good Men’, so with that dream team you are definitely going to have a winner. This isn’t the first film to attempt to do Steve Job’s life, there was a film two years ago, simply titled Jobs, which didn’t do well, mainly because of the film’s horrible mis casting of Ashton Kuchner in the title role. There is also the fact that people who wanted to learn more about Steve Jobs could also have seen the documentary ‘The Man In The Machine’. This film has also had a ton of Oscar buzz prior to its release and many of the people reading this review might have gone to see the film’s early screening across national cinemas as part of the London Film Festival in October. I didn’t. Mainly because I was busy at the time with seeing ‘Pan’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania 2’. If you go back and read my review of that film you will know how much I enjoyed spending my time doing that! (now that’s sarcastic).
So how does ‘Steve Jobs’ pan out. This is usually the part where I do a plot synopsis, but that’s a bit hard to do in this case because Steve Jobs is a very untraditionally structured movie. The film mainly takes place over three time periods, which Steve Jobs (played by Michael Fassbender) launching Macintosh in 1984, launching Next in 1988 and then returning to Apple in 1998 to launch the I Mac. The film also has the job of exploring his relationships with Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet) and Steve Wozniak (played by Seth Rogen), CEO of Apple John Sculley, (played by Jeff Daniels) as well as his daughter Lisa (who is played by 3 actresses, Mackenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo and Perla Haney-Jardine.) who he initially denies paternity of.
Danny Boyle, once again, sets out to make another film that is completely different to all of his previous films and he succeeds in that fact again. I can’t think of any other Danny Boyle film that is structured like this one or shot like this one. I’m not certain if this film will stand up to a lot of his classics like ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, but I definitely think that fans of his work should consider the possibility, because this film had one excellent plot. The film, as I mentioned, has a very untraditional structure, there is a lot missing out in the middle and it doesn’t really present a plot per se, it’s more just a series of conversations in a sense and preparing events that will launch products that people predict will either change the world or will flat out fail, usually a bit of both as well.
Now I love Apple products in fact I use a lot of them in my daily life, I have an I Phone and and I Pad, both of which I use to make my reviews and I do a lot of the editing of the reviews on my Macbook, in fact the only thing I have in my house that is made by Microsoft is my X Box. I think people’s love affair with Apple products is very present here and even staunch pc people will probably get something out of this film.
The risk of doing this sort of film though is it can potentially be a bore, a drag, or pretentious, luckily Steve Jobs doesn’t fall in to any of those factors. It’s one of the most engaging films I have seen in a long time and demands a lot from its audience. You don’t have to be an Apple nerd and know about half the products they have produced over the years or their general history to really enjoy this film. I’ve gone on about these sorts of films making you want to go out and explore the story behind the film and I do think this film will do that to people. The film’s screenplay itself that Aaron Sorkin adapted is based on a biography by Walker Isaacson and I think the film is rather balanced in its approach. It doesn’t glorify Steve Jobs to an absurd degree but it also doesn’t make him out to be an ‘arsehole’ at the same time, though certain portions of the film definitely make up their mind that he is an ‘arsehole’!. Especially the early portion, he more redeems himself in the final act of the film. Which probably was true to life itself. The film is also an excellent character piece. All these characters are very well directed and the motivation is very open and out there. You don’t need to stop and analyse everything in order to know what is going on, which I think is such a problem with movies that are clearly aiming to get an Oscar. In fact the film actually on a lot of levels felt very similarly structured to the film ’Birdman’ which won the Oscar for best picture this year. However, this film, I will say is vastly superior because it uses that sort of structure and idea and takes it to a much more pleasing degree and doesn’t stand behind pretention and making you want to analyse everything. You know, those sort of films when the Director is constantly waving his hands saying ‘ask me what it means’. I grant you, this plot won’t be for everyone, I’m fairly certain some will come out and say they are not happy with the film because it wasn’t true to what they knew of the story, but I think a lot of of people that make that complaint often forget that these are meant to be entertaining, they are not meant to be a complete documentary, so they are allowed to embellish at times. In fact ‘Philomena’, another film based on a true story actually used the levels of embellishment that it had in the film in its marketing campaign, and look how well that turned out! I’ve not actually read the book that this film is based on so I can’t pass apart from my reading of a brief synopsis, and by brief synopsis I mean I looked it up on Wikepedia, it does seem like it’s had its fair share of people saying it’s a true account and people saying it’s rather fabricated, but that’s true with almost anything like this, so yes, take your pick on that one.
The one thing the film does excellently though, is it gets to the philosophy of Steve Jobs and what he wanted for each of his products. He saw them all as ‘works of art’ and to such an extent there’s a running gag that whenever Steve Wozniak says ‘a computer isn’t a painting’ he replies ‘f… you’. I’m not sure if that is a direct quote, but I’m pretty sure much of the script is based on some direct quotes. There is one that I spotted that I knew about in the latter portion of the film where a reporter played by John Ortiz asks Steve if the Apple Logo is based on the fact that Alan Turing killed himself by eating a poisoned apple and his response is from his direct quote “it isn’t true, but wouldn’t it be great if it was”. The relationship between the various characters is also excellent, such as Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs relationship in terms of building the original Apple 2 computers together and him constantly fighting to get Jobs to recognise and give a shout out to the Apple 2 team despite his not wanting to promote old products and move on, as well as his relationship with head of Marketing Joanne, What particularly sells it is his relationship with his daughter which definitely gave the most character progression over any portion of the film. He starts out in the film in complete denial of her existence but this changes slowly down the line, these are the best portions of the film and despite the fact that most of these scenes are dedicated to the conferences and the launches of the products, there is lot limiting what you can do with this sort of story structure, there are also a lot of flash backs to fill in the gaps, so it never feels like we are missing anything in the story structure. It also helps that these cast members have excellent chemistry together, particularly Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet and as a result this really sells the film Everyone in this film feels like a genuine human being with both positive and negative parts to themselves and it’s mainly down to the fact that the script is very good and they are directed brilliantly.
This film also doesn’t feel too long despite the fact that this film goes on for two hours the pacing is excellent so as a result you never feel like the film is dragging its heels, everything feels relevant. In fact almost every line of dialogue feels relevant by the end of the film and that’s rare in this day and age with many films going through either the instant gratification card or holding too much back. Nothing feels pointless and everything seems to have a need. The film does largely rely on its transitions to be done through stock footage, but it’s actually quite good stock footage even at one point showing a scene from the Simpsons that mocked Apple’s failed early attempts at doing tablets. I’d say one thing I could best describe this film as is ‘it’s a very good character piece’ this is one of those films where an actor can really get into the role and sink his/her teeth into it and I think that’s one of the strengths that Danny Boyle’s direction has brought to the movie. I think this film in the hands of a lesser director would have turned out a lot worse and you can really feel his influence on the film. It’s one of the many reasons why I would consider Danny Boyle one of my 10 favourite directors.
However, this plot would have been nothing without the amazing acting talent in this film. The acting is astounding, no one is giving a bad performance. Michael Fassbender, who really at this point should have an Oscar, gives off another excellent performance on top of his performances earlier this year, in films like ‘Macbeth’, but this one is definitely the hi light. This one must get him an Oscar nomination off the back of it. I would also like to see some other Oscar nominations down the line for these other actors, but if I can go back to Fassbender again for a second, he delivers a performance, which I would say is even better than his performance in ‘Twelve Years a Slave’, granted I think he should have received an Oscar for his performance in ’Frank’, but that beside the point. Fassbender is really becoming one of my favourite actors along with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gorden Levitt and this is one of those performances that really makes me remember why. Granted, Danny Boyle never makes him the spitting image of Steve Jobs up until the third act when they start dressing him similarly, but he really embodies the spirit of the man, and that’s what I think really sells it. Kate Winslet also delivers a phenomenal performance as Joanne Hoffman, again, whilst she doesn’t look like the woman featured she does at least embody her personality very well, and she has a decent attempt at a Polish accent, even though at times it is a bit off and I would really like to see Kate Winslet up as Best Supporting Actress in the upcoming Oscars. Likewise I really enjoyed Seth Rogen who I never normally enjoy outside of his Kung Fu Panda performances, however he does a decent performance here. This not another case of a comedic actor trying another over ambitious turn at doing straight drama and I really think he does a good job playing Wozniak. Likewise Jeff Daniels, also delivers. The trailers for this film make out that he is playing a really unpleasant person, but he actually manages to play the role with a lot of different archetypes and he does them all well. Excellent performances are also given by all three of the actresses playing Steve Jobs daughter, Lisa Brennan at various ages and what is amazing is that all three of them feel like the exact same person, there is never a sense that one of these actresses is playing a different character, and for this sort of a film, that is one really great achievement. So definite kudos for all three of them. I also loved Katherine Waterston as her mother Christina, even though she is entirely absent for the third act and I especially thought that praise should be given to Michael Stuhlbarg for his role as chief designer, Andy Hertzfeld, who is also part of the best running gag through the movie where people keep saying Andy is here to see you and he has to keep asking ‘which one’, because two of the main guys at Apple have the same first name. I couldn’t find a bad performance so I tried to find a shaky performance, but I can’t seem to think of one, everyone is very well directed and any film that can make me like a Seth Rogen performance is doing a brilliant job.
Now on to cinematography. This is where the film is also excelling. I’ve talked a lot this year about period pieces having to fight for authenticity, and this film gets it’s authenticity just in the fact that each time period is shot and edited differently. 1984 looks like it’s shot from a film in 1984. 1988 looks like a film shot in that period. 1998 is where that comparison falls down, however, because that just feels like a film shot from anything in mid 2000 to the present day. However, this doesn’t change the fact that this film is excellently shot, I loved the film’s editing and I loved the timing of cuts and the way every scene was shot. This film must have been really cheap to make in terms of location shooting, because the majority of the film is shot in auditoriums and venues designed to hold conferences, so basically you could shoot half of the film in blank sound stages and no one would realise. I’m fairly certain that this film could fall below it’s expectations at the Box Office, but still make back a lot of its money. That doesn’t mean that this film feels cheap though, it’s just the locations blend well to the budget, but the film never shows or even suggests it has a budget constraint. The film also shoots the technology very well and while the writing makes you understand the technology relatively well, the film also takes us through the technology through its clever editing showing each of the processes of these presentations very well. To a lot of people, the cinematography would seem very mundane, but I actually feel that is one of the best shot films of the year because of how subtlety is does things very well. You feel the excitement and the weight of each of these events that the film has built up and the auditoriums feel big with a real atmosphere. Plus the stock footage adds to the authenticity of each time period during those transitions between the various timings, Plus we get tons of references to people like Alan Turing and Bob Dylan who were both big influences on Steve Jobs, as well as some footage of the famous 1984 advert to launch the Macintosh which, simultaneously was largely responsible for why that product failed abysmally in sales.
Steve Jobs is an excellent movie, I absolutely adored it. If this film doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, then it’s been a sorry year for The Academy. It’s brilliantly shot, it’s an excellent character piece with some amazing performances from its entire cast, especially Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen as well as Katherine Waterston Perla Haney-Jardine and Ripley Sobo. The first act is really good, the second act keeps it going with excellent pace, but the third act is where everything comes together and you realise what an excellent movie this is. It’s not a very traditionally structured movie and that might turn a few people off and some people may find a few things to complain about, like the historical accuracy, however, whether you go in to this film blind or not, I think you come out enjoying the movie. This is the excellent character driven movie that I have wanted to see for a long time, but has been largely absent in 2015. I do think you should try and see this one in the Cinema before it comes out on DVD. However, if you don’t want to see it right now and fancy a bit of a discount on it, you might be better off waiting until late Jan/Feb/March when the film, if it does get an Oscar nomination, will be likely re-released at a cheaper rate to coincide with the Oscars. But don’t hold me to that, because I don’t know that for certain!!
So, what were your thoughts on ‘Steve Jobs”? Is it the good character piece that I have build it up to be or did you have a different opinion to me? Would love to hear your comments, or you can message me at Twitter under the hashtag Axia Film Society. This week’s question is:
“Which is your favourite of Danny Boyle’s Movies?”
Now it’s time to announce the next film for the Axia Film Society, next week I will be reviewing the conclusion to the hunger games franchise “Mocking Jay Part 2”.
Thanks for reading my review, hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and seeing as you made it this far, here is the song I was listening to on my way to the Cinema, ENJOY.
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