Danny Boyle has had an interesting career as a director with the ability to make large sweeping films that take you on a physical journey, to smaller low key films that take you on emotional journeys. Steve Jobs, the director’s latest film, tackles the legacy of the famous Apple CEO, spanning through three separate key notes pivotal to his career. When tackling a biopic you can choose one of two ways to approach it. You can either attempt to capture the person’s entire life or you can focus on a few key moments of his life. The specific focus utilized in this movie, you will find, is both its strength and its weakness.
Firstly the strengths of the movie are in its construction, direction, and acting. Boyle knows how to direct a conversation in such a way that you are captivated, it doesn’t hurt that he has a magnificent cast to structure the scenes with. Michael Fassbender is great, and the costuming/makeup that accompanies each subsequent decade creates a believable time line. The supporting cast is likewise impressive with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and all three actresses playing Job’s daughter giving impressive performances. Rogen especially impresses, and does manage to play with some interesting elements in order to show off some range. Unfortunately Rogen isn’t given much in the way of a story arc by Aaron Sorkin (the film’s screenwriter), and his story never goes anywhere other than saying things like “You’re a dick Steve, and I have all the real talent.”.
Aaron Sorkin’s script is the main reason why in many ways Steve Jobs falls flat. Every character talks in very typical Sorkin speak, and they don’t feel like real people. Take for example Jeff Daniels character, every line he speaks sounds nearly identical to his character on The Newsroom, the dialogue Sorkin scripts just makes you feel like you’re listening to Sorkin talk, not the character. Regardless, the choice to set the film in a few pivotal moments was a good choice, however Sorkin tries to cram drama into every nook and cranny of every scene. You get no chance to breath with the characters, and instead are being constantly barraged by characters saying supposedly intellectual statements. The reason why the dialogue and scenes move so fast is mainly due to the fact that Sorkin doesn’t want you to really de-construct what they are saying, as often times the lines are pretty ridiculous. If you removed every analogy or metaphor from this film the running time would decrease dramatically. Tension should build in a film, not constantly be ramped up to eleven.
The music in the film is worth noting merely because of how intrusive, and manipulative it is. You can really tell what emotion the film wants you to have, by listening to the often times overbearing music. BE SAD. BE HAPPY. BE INSPIRED. BE MAD. That is the extent of emotional resonance you’ll receive from the film score. Now to be fair there are some subtle elements in the film that makes it a solid film score, that is more troubling in its usage as opposed to its quality. For example in the initial keynote set within the 1980’s the score has subtle synth elements that harken back to traditional synth scores seen throughout the bulk of the time period.
The film isn’t afraid to make Jobs look bad, which is a welcome change to many overly complimentary biopics so often made within the Hollywood system, however it does such a good job of painting him as a jerk, that the ending of the film doesn’t work at all. The film ends in what is meant to be a big uplifting moment, where the character is seemingly meant to be redeemed in the eyes of his daughter. Unfortunately we already know that he’s just a straight up bad father, and none of this gesture really means anything. Had the film taken a more ambiguous “decide for yourself” type of tone it would have been a lot more cohesive, and less offensive. A good recent example of this would be the film The Wolf Of Wall Street which showed its characters behaving horribly but always left it up to the viewer to decide what message the film was trying to convey. Here however Sorkin, and the films loud bustling score overpower any potential ambiguity.
Overall is the film bad? No. It is middle of the road, and doesn’t entirely fire on all cylinders, but it is still worth a watch if for nothing else than the performances. If you are a huge fan of Sorkin’s work on The Newsroom then you will undoubtedly thoroughly enjoy this film, but if you’ve had trouble with the writing style in the past then this won’t change your opinion. See the film for yourself September 24th at 8:00pm and judge for yourselves.