Somehow this film escaped me when it first came out. Admittedly this was before I had seen The Newsroom (another See it Again, count on it!) and still had the taste of The Social Network and Moneyball in my mouth. I didn’t care for either of those films, largely because I think they are both cynical and mean-spirited. I’m not sure why you would want to make either of those movies and I assumed Steve Jobs was more of the same.
What you should know
Although this film is a biopic the scope is narrow. Rather than starting somewhere around Steve Job’s birth and ending with his death it focuses on three major moments in his life. These happen to be three product launches, which in terms of structuring a film is quite brilliant.
This is a dialog-heavy film that moves with grace and agility. Director Danny Boyle infuses what is essentially a stage play with energy and vigor. The running time of the film is two hours and two minutes and I doubt anyone feels like they’ve watched a long movie when it ends.
Why you should reconsider
Perhaps the other Steve Jobs movie made you question seeing this. Or perhaps you thought Michael Fassbender was a strange choice. Whatever the reason you had I urge you to reconsider. This is a film where Seth Rogen has a substantial supporting role (that is not comedic) and he does a wonderful job. Kate Winslet is her usual, wonderful self and Jeff Daniels continues his streak of excellence playing powerful figures.
This is a film that could have been self-indulgent, could have focused on the many negative, well-known characteristics of Steve Jobs to try and make a similar film to The Social Network. It doesn’t do that but it also does not gloss over his imperfections as a person.
Instead this paints a complex portrait of a person who was responsible for some incredible innovations and massive failures. Unlike The Social Network where the message seemed to be “Mark Zuckerberg is incredibly smart and not very nice” this film shows the ways Steve Jobs was hurtful, unquestionably kind and absolutely enigmatic.
It’s a rewarding film to watch for the ebbs and flows of the relationships over time. Nothing feels simplistic or forced, which given the structure of the film is a feat in itself.
The film ends with the product launch of the iMac, which I believe puts it in the year 1998. Meaning many of the well-known and somewhat recent successes of Apple and Steve Jobs are left out.
The personal relationships (which are not work-related) in the film are with people I had never heard of (Chrisann and Lisa Brennan). His relationship with Lisa in particular, seen at three various ages, was interesting and unexpected.
While the film highlights the successes of Steve Jobs during this period it also covers significant backstory about the beginnings of Apple and the problems Steve Jobs’ forward-looking mindset caused with colleagues. For those not well versed in his story the middle section, regarding a company and product I had not heard of is welcome for balancing out the “success story” typically painted of people like Steve Jobs.
The film is a joy to watch and moves with the same speed on repeated viewings. That it portrays Steve Jobs in a complicated, even conflicted manner makes it a worthwhile experience. This is a film that you can dig into and explore or you can let it wash over you.