The much awaited and highly anticipated biopic, Steve Jobs, totally bombed at the box office! The movie’s debut earned it only 7.3 million dollars against it’s 30 million dollars budget. Bummer!
So what is Steve Jobs or more importantly, who is Steve Jobs? For beginners, well, it’s a biopic about the innovative and prodigious businessman Steve Jobs. yes, the same Jobs who made that iPhone on which you’re currently scrolling through this article. This biopic of Mr. Jobs depicts the Apple Inc. co-founder as a visionary, a philosopher, an artist and an innovator. Basically, an older and wrinklier version of Mark Zuckerberg.
“The very nature of people is something to be overcome,” Jobs says, as damning a statement as screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, using author Walter Isaacson’s biography as a springboard, can put in his mouth. Buried deep in Michael Fassbender’s fascinating portrayal of Jobs is a sense of self-loathing coexisting with the man’s tyrannical egotism, although his psychological hangups – most notably, a feeling of insurmountable rejection tied to his being given up for adoption as a newborn – aren’t used as an easy excuse or explanation.
Jobs routinely asserts himself as the one person in the room, any room, with control. He condescends to his Apple partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), the engineer/programmer yin to Jobs’ idea-man yang; in a moment designed solely to elicit a painful cringe, Jobs refers to Wozniak as “Rain Man.” Jobs routinely pushes around Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, initially unrecognizable in big glasses and brunette wig), and you wouldn’t know by the way he treats her that she isn’t his handler and lickspittle, but rather Apple’s marketing head. Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), a key Apple computer scientist, misses a three-week deadline handed down by Jobs, and the exchange is as follows:
Jobs: “The universe was created in a third of that time.”
Hertzveld: “Well, you’ll have to tell us how you did it.”
It gets worse – worse than Jobs’ combative confabs with his father figure, Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), which are edited furiously, like action sequences, verbal swordplay with dodges, parries and stabbings in the heart. Jobs argues the paternity of his daughter Lisa with cold rationale and public insults – a famously awful quote in Time magazine – directed at her mother, Chrisann (Katherine Waterston). She struggles to raise the kid while Jobs sits on a stock portfolio worth $440 million, and it isn’t until young Lisa plays with his inevitable financial failure, the original Macintosh computer, that he agrees to give them more than the pittance ordered by a judge.
All of this sets up Jobs for at least a taste of redemption by the time the credits roll. It has to, or else “Steve Jobs” wouldn’t be the complex character study that it is. Sorkin’s talktalktalk is audacious in the speed with which it demands exposition be recited, entertaining in its punchlines, rife with both detail and big-idea truisms and vexatious to those yearning for realism. Beneath it lie ruminations on the artist and the corporation, genius and commonality, the human struggle to balance intuition with intellect, passion with reason. But there was also a primal part of me that wanted to see Jobs get taken down a few pegs, if not slashed apart, by Sorkin’s wit.
Structurally, the film bucks biopic classicism. It consists of three stagey portraits of Jobs prior to his unveiling of a new computer: the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT cube in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. Sorkin ties the public product closely to the personal, suggesting the work defines the man, probably more for worse than for better. A terrific display of ensemble acting unfolds as Jobs prepares backstage, and the aforementioned key characters return for each act, cycling in and out of his presence, arguing for acknowledgement, trying to meet his exacting demands or reminding him that he’s not just a remarkable businessman, but also a terrible friend and father. Meanwhile, the cult of Jobs devotees anxiously awaits his presence on stage.
It’s an idea as old as the hills – that people are more important than work, even though that work sometimes changes the way we interact with the world. Not a spoiler: Jobs’ years-long struggle to execute his vision has a happy ending, especially obvious if you’re reading this review on an iPhone, Macbook or iPad. The implication is sharply ironic. Jobs may not know how people function, but he knows what they want, how they prefer to communicate. Beneath its Sorkin bluster and director Danny Boyle’s uptempo pacing, the film quietly depicts Jobs’ hypocrisy as intently human. And as it always should be, the film’s biographical accuracy is unimportant, trumped by what it has to say about human nature.