Film Review: Steve Jobs

Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs took in just $7 million in its opening weekend in the US, which is perhaps surprising with a cast boasting Michael Fassbender, Jeff Daniels, Seth Rogen and Kate Winslet. It’s very easy for directors and producers to say in hindsight that it was a project made purely for its own merits; not a money spinner. So was it a story that needed to be told? Perhaps not. We’re all fully aware of the cult of Apple, the cult of Steve Jobs. But the way in which it’s told is undeniably mesmerising.

This film says as much about the power of dialogue as it does the power of Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is ludicrously slick, leading us through three discernible “acts” which revolve around three pivotal product launches which Steve was paramount to. The first takes place in 1984 as Jobs prepares to unveil the Mac, the second in 1988 as (after being unceremoniously fired from Apple) he launches a rival computer with his company NeXT, and lastly in 1998 as he’s returned to Apple and is about to revolutionise the industry with the iMac.

Every event in the film, every cross word, every grudge, every technical conundrum is played out by the characters with equal and peak intensity. The computer must say “hello”! Steve must acknowledge Wozniak’s work! Steve’s daughter must have more support! The NeXT cube will fail! It’s exhausting to witness at times, and you’re left wondering which problem you’re meant to care about most. Perhaps that’s how things were in Steve’s life: all or nothing, high-octane risk and reward, but it doesn’t help us really get under the skin of the man.

Some former colleagues have spoken out since the film’s release, contesting that Steve’s personality has been simplified for dramatic effect time and time again, making him seem heartless and distorting his legacy somewhat. But there’s no denying that the film does paint him in an admirable light: as a rare breed of sheer determination. “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them”, Steve famously said. The consumer isn’t always right; there have to be standards of expertise and taste, and he took this mantle upon himself. He wasn’t the best engineer or programmer, but he was bold enough to do what so few, and equally capable, people do: be bloody-minded… and convince.

Steve aside, equally interesting is the film’s exploration of his relationship with Joanna Hoffman, Apple’s chief marketing exec. She famously twice won Apple’s internal award for “Standing Up to Steve” and appears to soften his hard edges and focuses his familial emotions onto his estranged daughter when needed. Kate Winslet is a far cry from her usual polished self in the role of Hoffman, taking on the Polish-Armenian-American accent, and taking on Steve Jobs.

As the credits rolled I was left feeling drained from every withering glare, “walk with me” power-rant, frantic clash of egos and opinions. But for all the film’s artistic embellishments and dubious claims, the script was sharp, quick and brilliant and the acting was vivid– these displays alone were surely an ode to the force of Steve Jobs.