In my review for “Sicario” (check it out here), I wrote how it was hard for a director to follow up a masterpiece. The same can be said for a screenwriter. Aaron Sorkin’s last solo screenplay was for “The Social Network” in 2010. (He co-wrote “Moneyball” in 2011 with Steve Zaillian). The “Social Network” is an all-timer for me. It is expertly crafted and acted and captures the state of communication and technology in today’s society perfectly. Whether historically accurate or not, a lot of the movie’s success is because of Sorkin’s Oscar winning script.
So how does Sorkin follow up his masterpiece? By taking on the larger than life character of Apple founder Steve Jobs. And much like the man we follow on screen, “Steve Jobs” is a brilliant movie, yet not without it’s flaws.
“Steve Jobs” is broken up into three parts, almost like a play. We watch three key moments in Jobs’ career. We see the launch of the first Macintosh computer in 1984, the launch of Jobs’ new company NeXT in 1988 after he was let go from Apple, and we see the 1998 launch of the first iMAC, when Jobs was back with Apple. We witness the events that transpired roughly thirty minutes before Jobs hits the stage, where he apparently dealt with a lot of issues like paternity suits, establishing a relationship with his daughter, arguing with former business partners, and trying to figure out why he wasn’t on the cover of TIME magazine. Each segment takes place in real time (a half hour in the movie is a half hour of film we are watching) and we get some nice transitions between each moment to give us a little background as to what is happening in his life.
I love Danny Boyle as a director, but I feel he was the wrong choice for this film. Boyle is a very visceral and innovative director. He uses techniques, angles, and edits that give his movies a certain swagger and look, much like Martin Scorsese or Darren Aronofsky. I don’t go to Danny Boyle movies to see two hours of dialog. I’m not saying Boyle did a bad job, he actually did some great work, especially his choice of shooting each segment differently (1984 – 16mm, 1988 – 35mm, 1998 – digital) but I feel his talent wasn’t used properly. I think a director like David Fincher (who was originally attached to the project) or Bennett Miller would have been better suited.
Reading an Aaron Sorkin screenplay is like reading Shakespeare. There is a certain way to say a joke, or an insult, and the speed at which it has to be said takes true talent. Good thing this is one of the best casts of the year. Michael Fassbender is remarkable as Jobs. He looks nothing like the man, but I believed it was him. He captured the arrogance and brilliance of Jobs while making us feel empathy and sometimes sympathy for the man. In one scene we hate him, in the next, we love him. It might be the best performance of his career. Jeff Daniels gives another great performance in 2015 as John Skulley, who mildly resembles his character of Will MacAvoy on the Sorkin written “The Newsroom”. When Skulley and Jobs go at it over Jobs’ departure from Apple during the NeXT sequence, sparks fly and Sorkin and Boyle give us an exhilarating scene of acting mastery. They go toe-to-toe with one another, spitting bullets until one finally breaks. It is one of the best scenes Sorkin has ever written. Seth Rogen impresses in his first real dramatic role as the under appreciated Steve Wozniak. And it’s good to see Kate Winslet in something other than a “Divergent” movie. Winslet proves she still has it as Jobs’ assistant Joanna Hoffman, the only person who pushes back at Jobs when his ego gets in the way.
If you couldn’t tell, I loved Sorkin’s screenplay, which was adapted from the book “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, and think it has some his best scenes he has ever written. However, I have one slight issue with Sorkin’s screenplay. MILD SPOILERS AHEAD, so skip to the next paragraph if you care. In the last part of the movie, right before the iMAC launch, Jobs has it out with his now-in-college daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine). They argue about how Jobs wasn’t going to pay her tuition to Harvard, even though he is a billionaire, and how terrible of a father he was. Steve all of a sudden feels bad and apologizes to his daughter, making everything all better and they can live happily ever after. Wait, what? We spend almost two hours with Jobs and he never shows this much sympathy towards anyone, including his daughter, but in the blink of an eye, he’s a nice guy? Sorkin got soft on us and I would have been pretty upset if this is how the movie ended. But, Danny Boyle saves Sorkin with a simple camera move. After everything is okay, Jobs hits the stage for the launch with Lisa looking on from the side of the stage. She sees the gigantic figure he is to the audience. As she stares at him, Jobs goes from in-focus to out-of-focus, as to show us that even after all the apologies and the sweet moment just minutes before, Lisa still can’t tell who her father is. Is he the greedy, arrogant man she always saw growing up? Or is he the man she just saw? This is left for the audience to decide and ends the movie on a less Disney-happy note.
Much like the actual Steve Jobs, this movie is brilliant, yet flawed. It features an incredibly written screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and searing, masterful performances by the entire case. “Steve Jobs” is one of the best movies of 2015.
MY RATING: 3.5/4
Image courtesy of YouTube via Universal Pictures