Let me explain . First of all, it is a great looking film and credit there goes to director Danny Boyle and cinematographer Alwin H Kuchler. They take the approach of showing 3 launches of Jobs’ products- 1984 Macintosh, 1988 NeXT box and 1998 Imac. You have to go with the conceit that basically everything comes to a climax in both Jobs’ personal and professional life on the day of the launches. I was personally willing to make that leap.
If you are a fan of this blog you might know I am not the biggest Aaron Sorkin fan. I find his Social Network and Moneyball to be overrated mainly because the characters are rather one-note when they could be more fleshed out and nuanced. Sure he can write banter but if I don’t care about the characters and they don’t feel authentic that is just talking heads. (I’m not saying those are terrible films. I just don’t think he is the genius writer everyone else seems to see).
That said, Steve Jobs is my favorite Sorkin film. He builds tension very well and the various characters weave in and out. This is helped greatly by a top notch cast. Michael Fassbender continues his amazing hit streak with an Oscar caliber performance.
Kate Winslet is also superb as Joanna Hoffman his PR rep or secretary or something. She refers to herself at one point as Steve’s “work wife” and you buy that. It feels like she is up for the challenge of his big personality every time.
I also thought Jeff Daniels was amazing as John Scully who is wildly seen as the man who fired Steve Jobs from his own company. It is there conversations where you get the few moments of warmth from Jobs.
Before I saw the movie I read an article about how much Steve Wozniak loves the film. Well, of course he loves the movie. He is painted as the hero of the film. The man who fights for the little guy against the corporate pig Steve Job. Seth Rogan is good but it’s a role that requires him to mostly stand in the audience calling for Steve to ‘acknowledge the little guy’. That’s the kind of one-note characters in Sorkin’s writing I don’t care for.
Partly because of the 3 launch structure you don’t get a ton of time to paint a well-rounded picture of Steve Jobs. We see him as mostly a bully who pushes his own agenda at the cost of relationships and people. He has a huge ego and is kind of a modern Ebenezer Scrooge but with no redemption arc. He doesn’t own his daughter, he pushes Wozniak, and Scully away and no other functioning softening relationship is shown.
They try to say that he was such a bully because he was adopted and then returned by a family and then his new family fought custody with his mother saying she didn’t love him for the first year of life. This may all be true but I at least have read about another side to Steve Jobs- a side that believed in others and inspired people.
In Creativity Inc President of Pixar Ed Catmull talks at length about Steve Jobs. He does mention the tough egotistical side but also fleshed out another side. If you didn’t know Steve Jobs bought Pixar in 1986 and incurred losses for 8 years while they worked on the crazy goal of the first computer animated film.
“There were so many things I could say about Steve- how he bought the division that would become Pixar from George Lucas in 1986 saving us from extinction; how he encouraged us to embark on our first feature film, Toy Story, 3 years later, when the idea of a computer-animated feature film still seemed beyond our reach; how he’d solidified our future by selling us to Disney and then ensured our autonomy by orchestrating a merger that created a true partnership; how he helped take us from 43 employees to the 1100 …
Looking back, I could recall the earliest moments of our relationship- him probing and poking, me honing and fortifying my ideas. He had made me more focused, more resilient, smarter, better. Over time, I had come to rely on his demanding specificity, which never failed to help me clarify my own thinking. I could already feel the weight of his absence”
Brad Bird then went on to say:
“Steve held the bar for quality. he was always about the long run He was into Buddhism, but I see him more as just a spiritual guy. I have to believe that he believed in something beyond this” he hesitated overcome for a moment “and that’s where we’ll see him again. Where cream rises to the top. So here’s to you Steve, and to the long run”
I share those long quotes with you because that is not any of the man we get in the movie Steve Jobs. I realize a movie can’t be everything but when you are dealing with a real person it doesn’t feel right to paint him as such an egotistical bully.
As animation fans there is a huge ripple effect beyond even Pixar that Steve Jobs started. First of all he bought and nurtured Pixar so without him none of their classic films. Without Pixar John Lasseter would not have stepped in as Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney. Without Lasseter no Disney 2nd Renaissance, probably no purchase of Lucas Films, so no new Star Wars, no bringing in the Ghibli films, which Lasseter was a champion of… The list goes on. There is a reason the entire campus at Pixar is named after Steve Jobs. He is absolutely essential in all of that happening, and yet the movie makes us believe he was nothing more than a good pitch man who doesn’t deserve the credit he gets.
But I was entertained by the film. If I can kind of pretend it is a fictional CEO then I might even call it a masterpiece. It is very well acted, directed and paced. It also has some interesting questions about the masses and how we honor people and what makes us purchase products.
If you see Steve Jobs I’d love to hear what you think. Also if you have read Creativity Inc put in the comments below.
Overall Grade- B-
Here is my youtube review: