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Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, A Few Good Men) and directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) from the award-winning biography by Walter Isaacson, is the story of three launches during the career of the computer legend: the original Mac, NExt, and the iMac. Boyle’s direction is as energetic as it was in The Social Network, fully in keeping with the hyperactive pace of the main character and his lifestyle. Handheld cameras track Jobs and his assistant Joanna Hoffman, played beautifully by Kate Winslet, as they prepare to go out on stage, frenetically trying to balance last second problems with meetings ranging from those of enemies to those of colleagues to those of family.

Boyle has cast the movie perfectly. Michael Fassbender plays the volatile Jobs without missing a beat. Seth Rogen surprises with a perfect subtlety in the role of the complex Steve Wozniack, co-creator of the Mac. Michael Stuhlbarg plays Andy Hertzfeld and holds his own in the company of Winslet, Fassbender, et al. And Jeff Daniels, experiencing something of a renaissance with this role and his role as a major player in NASA in the hit The Martian, shows why he is considered such a versatile actor by playing John Scully with all the savvy Scully must have had to run both PepsiCo and Apple in his career. It is a wild and crazy ride Boyle puts the viewer through, but I never gave a thought to it because that seems to be the way Jobs and his colleagues lived their lives.

Or did they? Does Steve Jobs really give us a window into the life of the historical Steve Jobs or does it simply create a character illuminating a movement? I have not read Issacson’s very large book, but it is hard to believe that the questions the movie introduces, i.e. almost every aspect of Jobs’s life, both public and private, personal and corporate, were dealt with by him in the half hour before he went out to pitch the three most important products he ever pitched. (The iPod was arguably the most successful product Jobs ever made, but if he had not done what he did with the three covered in this film, the iPod would have never happened.) Did he really get into huge knock-down drag-outs with his common-law wife Chrissan Brennan about his paternity of their daughter just before he launched the Mac in 1984? Did Steve Wozniack really get into a shouting match with Jobs in the auditorium before the launch of the “Blueberry” iMac in 1998? And did Jobs really turn into “good dad” almost instantly just before the same launch?

Steve Jobs is a beautiful film, capturing at least the image of what the computer revolution has been all about everywhere: brilliant, young programmers thinking and working outside the box to create the incredible innovations that have changed almost every aspect of 21st century humanity’s everyday lives. But does it really tell us who Steve Jobs was or simply add to the mythology that has grown up around the icon? Such is the mystery of the biopic.

Drew Trotter

November 12, 2015

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