HAVE you ever wondered what’s behind the image of computer genius Steve Jobs? Well Quays News entertainment reporter Thom Whyte went to watch the candid biopic about his life…

The furore that accompanied the death of Steve Jobs was huge. Though surprising to some, the cultural wave that followed surely cemented his place as a modern pioneer, a visionary thinker held in almost religious, mythological regard by many. We’ve already had a biopic, an acclaimed documentary, and an authorised biography in the four years since his death. And now we have Steve Jobs. From writer Aaron Sorkin and director Danny Boyle, we get another, dramatised look and what went on behind the screen, at the wirings and codings of Jobs’s career.

Michael Fassbender commands the screen in a flowing, physical, and highly dislikable portrayal of Jobs. The movie benefits greatly, in fact, from good acting back to front. Kate Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, giving us Jobs’s moral compass and probably the only functional, rounded adult character to be seen. Jeff Daniels is John Sculley, the CEO of Apple and sort-of father figure, sort-of mentor to Jobs, whose performance lights up when the relationship between the pair becomes fraught. Even Seth Rogen, playing Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, hits his stride in a dramatic role, managing to be both sympathetic and frustrating at once.

Boyle’s direction is smart, managing to keep momentum and a sense of movement in a film that largely consists of conversations taking place in confined environments. But Steve Jobs is a writer’s film, and Sorkin’s script takes centre stage. The dialogue is knife-point sharp, often funny and always witty. The walk-and-talk sequences are free-flowing and the arguments, of which there are many, manage to hold back just before becoming overwrought. The best is saved for Fassbender, whose fierce and acerbic performance is embellished with the most infuriatingly clever comebacks and putdowns.

The film takes place over three events in Jobs’s career, each of them launches for one of his projects: the Apple Mac in 1984; the NeXT in 1988; and the iMac in 1998. The film deals with the gaps between these in an intelligent way, transitioning from one to the other with montages that keep us up to date. In fact, the film deals with the past well throughout. Some of the best scenes are conversations that are blended with events from Jobs’s past. An argument between Sculley and Jobs alongside which we are also shown a boardroom meeting where the real reason Jobs left Apple is revealed in particular is one of the film’s best scenes.

A three-act format is established, and a classic storyline takes shape, one of a hero’s rise, fall, and redemption, and that is certainly the direction that Jobs’s career took. But the filmmakers have no interest in showing us a hero in the classic sense, and the course of his personal life throughout the movie is very different.

It’s no accident that at each of the three events we never see Jobs from the view of his audience, and only very fleetingly actually on stage at the end. The film is concerned with events behind the curtain and with Jobs’s fractious relationships with those around him. Aside from Lisa, his daughter, and her mother, we’re deliberately only shown him interacting with colleagues, none of whom he gets on with. His unshakeable drive and belief in himself prevent the forming of close relationships, and he has an almost pathological need to distance his family.

The only character exempt from this was Joanna Hoffman, his aide and closest ally. She provides many of the films lighter, more humorous moments, and opposite Fassbender, Winslet manages to draw out the positives in Jobs’s character so that we can see them too. Her performance is assured and Winslet looks very comfortable in the role, bringing a more relaxed presence amidst the stress and havoc of the other characters.

The film does seek to douse a couple of fires towards the end. There is reconciliation to be found between Jobs and Lisa, among others, while other relationships are left more uncertain. Steve Jobs shoots for a more hopeful ending which perhaps feels a little forced and incongruous, but we’re nevertheless left with no doubt of Jobs’s intellect and influence and the fact that he really did want to change the world for the better. Daniel Pemberton’s musical score is the perfect accompaniment to the direction, quietly but constantly thudding along in the background, building each act to a crescendo. Brilliant acting and smart writing make Steve Jobs well worth the price of admission.

Rating: 15
Running time: 122 mins

By: Thom Whyte

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