Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston
Based upon the book by: Walter Issacson
Adapted for the screen by: Aaron Sorkin
Directed by: Danny Boyle
IMDb Score: 7.3
Metacritic Score: 82
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%
Nominated for 2 Academy Awards including Best Actor (Fassbender) and Best Supporting Actress (Winslet)
Rated R for language.
If there has ever been a screenwriter that has created his own language out of the English language, it’s Aaron Sorkin. He makes the mundane feel eventful; the eventful feel like a religious experience. Whether it’s through his great TV series’ (The West Wing, Sports Night) or his excellent job writing movies (The Social Network, A Few Good Men, The American President), his incredible use of characterization and depth of tone envelopes films he creates with a certain panache few writers can match.
But, when is this a bad thing? When is knowing the writer and his tics and his methods a distraction? May I introduce you to…
The film chronicles the years of 1984 – 1998, when Steve Jobs (Fassbender) goes from introducing the Mac to introducing the iMac and his personal problems in each subsequent launch.
Let’s ask this question again: When does one element detract from the entirety of a film even though that element is the best part of the film? The answer is in this case for Steve Jobs, which wholly relies on Sorkin’s augmented stage-play to carry the entirety of the film.
Make no mistake, he does carry the entirety of the film, but it’s a distracting carry to a point where you can pin-point where the film is obviously weak and relies on a gratutious monologue to get through the scene.
This isn’t a film that is enhanced by the screenplay, though: Screenwriters like Tarantino, Kubrick, Scorcese, Wilder not only enhance the movie through dialogue and the setup of each scene, they allow the performances and direction to take the reigns on the whole film. Steve Jobs’ screenplay doesn’t do that.
The film is only a byproduct of the screenplay. The direction is only to make the screenplay feel more pronounced. The acting is only to make sure the screenplay is being acted.
Is it acted well? Yes, which should come to no surprise when you have Fassbender, Winslet, Stahlburg, and especially Seth Rogen playing these central characters. Only, they don’t feel like characters and they don’t feel especially lived in. No, these performances feel like well rehearsed line reads.
The direction is also rather pedestrian: it’s also just a lens to show the screenplay off. The direction is very sectioned-off: it feels like it’s literally a play with a camera. Most scenes take place in just 3 – 5 places and consist of only talking.
Now, that’s not necessarily a problem. Louis Malle made a dinner conversation into a beautiful film masterpiece in My Dinner with Andre, but Steve Jobs doesn’t do that. The most Steve Jobs is about corporate subterfuge and how much of an asshole Steve Jobs is.
And my God is the character of Steve Jobs wholly unlikable and unrelatable. Is that who Steve Jobs was? Yes, that’s been well documented. Yet, there are plenty of films that make hateable and despicable people into characters you want to watch and follow. Steve Jobs doesn’t do that. Hell, it doesn’t come close.
Is that a performance problem or a screenplay problem? It’s neither, it’s a direction problem. The direction takes no responsibility in the action or drama of the film to tell the audience what we are supposed to feel about this brilliant, yet terrible person.
It is, honestly, the biggest problem of the movie. The direction is nonexistent. Honestly, anyone could have directed this film. I’ll even say that Jobs, as putrid of a film that was, was better directed than Steve Jobs. The director, Danny Boyle, doesn’t do anything to point a film into a direction. It doesn’t even go down the middle, it just does whatever and shoots it.
As great as the screenplay is and as good as the performances were, this film made me ask one question that destroys any bio-pic when its asked by a viewer: Why exactly does this guy deserve a movie?
Yes, there are less interesting people and more horrible people who have gotten a bio-pic movie, but when you end a movie asking that question, it shows that the movie didn’t teach you anything exceptional or that maybe his contribution didn’t mean as much as it should have.
And sure, he is responsible for making watching porn while streaming it on the bus possible for all of us (for which we are thankful), but when one watches a 2 and a half hour film saying “It’s good, but why should I care about this guy?” It’s time to look at what was made and ask why it was made.
Much like the Apple Newton.
Eat up Martha indeed.
The Wiz Says #57