Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Steve Jobs’ Review: Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet & Jeff Daniels

Steve Jobs is not your typical biopic. The film takes place over three different years (1984, 1988 and 1998) and set before each iconic product launch that Steve Jobs was behind. Steve Jobs acts more like a three-act play rather than a traditional film. Following Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), the mastermind and co-founder of Apple, we get a closer look at the digital revolution he started and more importantly a better sense of his relationships with his colleagues and his daughter Lisa.

Steve’s close friend and colleague, whom he also refers to as his “work wife” Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) loves him as a friend, but frequently butts heads with his stubbornness and major ego. She encourages Steve to spend more time with his daughter, stressing that she is the most important part of his life and not his products. Developer (and now co-founder of Apple) Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) only wants Steve to give him the same recognition and accountability for helping create his products. Former Pepsi CEO and Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) realizes Steve’s genius, but fires him after the initial launch of Macintosh in 1984 due to its failure. Computer scientist and colleague Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) has acted more of a father to Steve’s daughter than Steve has himself. Throughout the film, each character has a scene that summarizes their relationship with Steve, paving the way into the character and getting to know him, as we have never done before.

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Audiences are complaining that the movie isn’t great because Michael Fassbender, or Fassy as I like to call him, doesn’t look a thing like Steve Jobs. That point is irrelevant because Fassbender is so good in this role that by the end he becomes Steve Jobs. He clearly isn’t trying to impersonate Steve Jobs, but more so interpreting his character. By the end of the film, Fassbender is Steve Jobs and his arc is incredibly provoking to watch. Plus, watching Fassbender and Kate Winslet spar back and forth as Steve and Joanna is super entertaining. Winslet is stunning as Joanna Hoffman. Her Polish and Armenian accent is flaw-free and she completely disappears into this role. The most memorable scenes of the film are between Fassbender and Winslet.

The vignette storytelling is interesting and a bit confusing at times. Steve Jobs acts more like a three act play over a fluid two-hour long film. It’s a strange choice but it does pay off in the end and certainly serves as a showcase for Aaron Sorkin’s incredible writing. I admire his daring choice to show us these characters in this particular framing, but it also took me out of the film because it is clearly so unbelievable what we are seeing. The fact that Steve Jobs would have had these types of interactions right before every major launch is just not plausible, but I know that is not the point Boyle and Sorkin were trying to make. In order to cover these three major points in Jobs’ life, this is a unique way to tell the audience but it makes me wonder if this film would have benefited even more from a full and more truth telling biopic of his life. The dialogue is absolutely amazing; I would just be interesting to see it in another type of storytelling format. This is a film that needs to be viewed again and again to grasp each scene fully.

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The cinematography by Alwin H. Kuchler (2014’s Divergent) is lovely, paired with a simple yet profound score by Daniel Pemberton (2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Boyle has proven time and time again that he is a wonderful filmmaker and his versatility grows with Steve Jobs. The film shows Steve’s strengths and weaknesses and paints him as a man with a bright mind, but also as someone who still had flaws.

The ensemble stands out more than any other ensemble in a film this year, the film editing and cinematography are outstanding while Danny Boyle’s direction is precise and calculated. Yes, every quality of the film is great, but the true memorable character is Aaron Sorkin, whose dialogue hits you like a punch in the face and makes you gasp for air. It would have been hard to say if he could match his fantastic Oscar-winning screenplay of The Social Network, but in Steve Jobs he again proves why he is one of the greatest screenwriters of our time.

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