Jobs Well Done

You’re never far from Steve Jobs. I typed this review on my MacBook Pro, my iPhone inches away and my iPad across the room on my desk. Jobs, the enigmatic cofounder and former CEO of Apple, helped shape how we live today and his influence will reverberate for generations.

   Jobs has been immortalized in two films since his 2011 death. The first was Jobs, a 2013 bio flick starring Ashton Kutcher and predominantly neglected for its superficiality. The second is Steve Jobs, which arrives in theaters nationwide October 23.

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs. Photo courtesy of Universal

   For this adaptation, Michael Fassbender steps into Jobs’ signature sneakers and black turtleneck. A strong supporting cast—including Kate Winslet as loyal marketing director Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogan as Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, and Jeff Daniels as another former Apple CEO, John Scully—backs Fassbender as he races through a three-act script by Aaron Sorkin. Director Danny Boyle, best known for his 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, has weaved together a pulsating portrayal of key moments in Jobs’ career, narrowing in on his doggedness in all aspects of life.

   Sorkin’s script is both the film’s biggest asset and its biggest detriment. Starting with Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography as his base, Sorkin developed a story rooted in reality but adversely affected by a sharp turn toward artistic license. His playwriting roots are in full bloom, having confined the setting to large auditorium halls and structured the narrative around three computer launches: the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. By doing so, he achieved an impressive dramatic rapidity—one of his signature flairs—but burdened his beats with far too many conflicts. The result is an improbably constriction of events that skews Steve Jobs into fast-pace fiction.

   A script this dense, however, provides plenty of meat for actors, and this ensemble digs in. Kate Winslet’s natural nervous energy suits Sorkin’s speedy dialogue, and she grabs hold of situations with a sensitivity that contradicts Fassbender’s aloof veraciousness. Seth Rogan has always had the look to play Steve Wozniak, and his performance proves he has the acting chops to capture Woz’s essence and play pickup to Fassbender. Jeff Daniels rounds out the main cast and he is solid, as always, but his performance—from tone to swagger—aches of Will McAvoy, his character from Sorkin’s HBO drama The Newsroom.

   Fassbender, of course, anchors the movie. He delivers monologue after monologue, always revealing new specks of insight into Jobs’ motivations and fears, his hardheadedness and his shortcomings. The audience sees Fassbender physically evolve with each act, but his Jobs never falters in his convictions, even when it means coming to blows with Wozniak over a 14-year-old disagreement. By marrying this sense of conviction with a passion for perfection, Fassbender turns Jobs into the artist he always knew he was.

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