Imagine someone you like and someone you loathe collaborating. It’s like when Avril Lavigne married Chad Kroeger. The former gave your young, angst-y self “Sk8er Boi” while the latter was the lead for… Nickelback. Going into Steve Jobs provided a similar sensation, considering that I admire Aaron Sorkin’s work and have no interest in Danny Boyle’s. Yes, I’ve seen his films, including the beloved Millions and Slumdog Millionaire, but a person can love a story while hating its direction. Naturally, my love/hate relationship with these cinematic legends led to mixed feelings for Jobs.
The film takes us behind the scenes of three product launches: Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in ’88, and the iMac in ’98, though Sorkin relishes dropping Apple history breadcrumbs throughout (no the logo wasn’t inspired by Alan Turing, yes Jobs [Michael Fassbender] hated the idea of a stylus, obviously the 1984 ad was a hit). Beyond this, Sorkin also enjoys using connective threads, which seemed patronizing. You’ll hear about free passes, the 28%, and skinheads before each launch… just in case you forget who this small cast of characters is! The film could also have been called “Lisa” since the third driving force through each launch, and the greatest visual expression of time passed, comes in the form of Job’s daughter. As Jobs presents each machine, he is confronted by the same drama as the launches prior, but with different music and a new hairstyle. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) wants recognition, John Scully (Jeff Daniels, proving once again he’s great at passionately shouting) desperately wants to be forgiven/Dad, the Andy’s are just trying to do their jobs right (Michael Stuhlbarg and Sarah Snook). I was distracted thinking Chrisann was played weakly by Workaholic’s hilarious Jillian Bell, when in reality it was Katherine Waterston. Oops.
As for Boyle, the wonky angles, bold (read: ew) transitions, mixed media, and soaring score are undoubtedly here. But the trailer warns you of that. At one point Job’s words appear lit on the floor and ceiling as he speaks them. The NeXT launch features shots solely of Fassbender’s face, looking pensive. There’s archival footage and pulsing music, and incredibly quick flashbacks. Some of his decisions I liked, most of all how each launch was captured with its own film (16mm, 35mm, and digital) to show the technological advances but also provide a genuine feel for that time. It’s fascinating to watch a movie go from fuzzy to clear alongside the understanding a man’s persona. And the performances are, aside from Waterston, outstanding, and that leads me to assume the direction of the cast was also great. Fassbender, Kate Winslet (playing his Polish marketing head Joanna Hoffman), and Rogen are already being murmured alongside “Oscar,” and for good reason. I found myself leaning forward the whole time, watching these people so intensely because deliveries felt like the real deal. I won’t be able to watch Jobs countless times (ahem, unlike The Social Network), but it’s fun. That’s it. Fun to see history unfold, fun to watch dynamic characters go head to head, fun to know what’s next but unsure how it’ll be revealed. And who doesn’t like fun?