by Tony Johnson
at 01:54 PM | Permalink
How do you
manage to pack the lifetime of a generation-defining innovator into just more
than two hours of screen time? This is the challenge that Danny Boyle (director
of Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotters) faces with his latest
directorial effort, Steve Jobs. With
a trademark rat-a-tat screenplay from Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball, The Social Network),
the latest film surrounding the late Apple founder opts out of a tame, status
quo biopic format for a compact, perhaps more difficult and ultimately
beautiful picture revolving around three pivotal product releases that helped
define Jobs’ career. But while we are taken from the launch of the original
Macintosh to Jobs’ stint at NeXT to the original iMac unveiling, a struggle to
grapple with his role in a scrambled family tree persists. It is a cumulative
narrative gamble intricately orchestrated by Sorkin, sharply executed by Boyle
and remarkably brought to life by the film’s star, Michael Fassbender.
of ingredients that goes into the final recipe, oddly enough, mostly reflects
the biopic subject’s own tendencies as a business leader. The picture takes big
chances, trusts its audience to see through the final product’s negligible
flaws and eventually breaks through with something truly astounding.
Occasionally, the film feels erratic — the jumps in time can feel jarring — but
it is grounded in relationships revolving around a troubled but brilliant
protagonist. The decision to force the life of an industry giant to be shown in
miniscule slices of life — only three days with occasional flashbacks — also
forces discussions that occurred (or half-occurred) at different times in
Steve-Jobs-the-man’s life to occur backstage with Steve-Jobs-the-character. The
decision is the mark of a filmmaking team dedicated to a narrative that does
its subject justice as opposed to doing their subject a service. It sacrifices
history for narrative, a worthy payment to achieve an eventual triumph. It
would have been much safer to simply roll a tape that marched steadily along
throughout the protagonist’s lifeline. But Sorkin’s script does for Jobs
exactly what his The Social Network screenplay
did for Zuckerberg — mythologize the work of the subject while humanizing them.
And although it may be more fun to witness the glorification of the achievement
of the iMac or “the Facebook” (do you remember the “the”?), it is much more rewarding
to observe the inner workings of men mostly accessed indirectly through their
not to compare and contrast Steve Jobs with
The Social Network. Their premises
and Sorkin connection make them a perfect future double-header. In 2008, David
Fincher showed us a heartbroken, bitter whiz kid-version of Zuckerberg crawling
through the pains of social rejection and industry success in a coming-of-age
story. Now, we get Danny Boyle’s take on a Sorkin wunderkind of a more
optimistic flavor. Like the Zuckerberg character we get our hands on, this
re-creation of Steve Jobs’ main issue isn’t his talent. It’s his ability to
accept responsibility for people who are close to them in favor of his work.
But Sorkin trades in the open-ended relatively bleak conclusion of Zuckerberg’s
rise to fortune for a mostly uplifting ending to Jobs’ struggles with his daughter
characters and settings and dialogues are not exact replicas of reality. At one
point, Jobs remarks that everyone seems to confront him about personal qualms right
before product releases, and we have to wonder how much that is wink to those
who lived the real thing. The Beginning of 2013’s American Hustle comes to mind, when the opening frames read: “Some
of this actually happened.” Of course, Steve
Jobs is more honorable to the subject than O. Russell’s ABSCAM critique,
which took unprecedented liberties and changed stories and names entirely for
the sake of the narrative. Boyle doesn’t break the facts to pieces and create a
new world to explore. Rather, he puts a spin on things, and he mashes tons of crucial
life moments into 122 minutes of screen time.
result feels intelligent, delightful and human. These three qualities —
intelligence, delight and humanity — may have been Jobs’ most endearing
personal elements that he contributed to the computer industry. “It needs to
say, ‘Hello!’ ” Jobs commands Apple engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg)
before the unveiling of the Macintosh. The Steve Jobs we meet via Michael
Fassbender is calculating and demanding, but still charming in his sheer
passion and enthusiasm for his line of work. In this regard, Steve Jobs is a resounding success.
the three product release events, we also get a glimpse of Jobs’ struggles as a
reluctant father, a challenging friend and an adopted son. There is no practical
reason to like him for how he handles his out-of-wedlock daughter, Lisa, whom
he initially rejects as someone else’s. “You must see that she looks like you”,
Steve’s marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) tells him backstage
of the Macintosh presentation. More than 10 years later, Hoffman tells Steve
before the launch of the iMac, “What you make isn’t supposed to be the best part
of you. When you’re a father — that’s what’s supposed to be the best part of
you.” His old friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak confronts him about giving
recognition to the team that developed the Apple II computer, Apple’s earliest
commercial breakthrough. When Jobs declines time and time again, Wozniak breaks
it down. “It’s not binary,” he explains. “You can be decent and gifted at the
same time.” Even Steve’s business partner and eventual foe John Scully (Jeff
Daniels) poses the question, “Why do people like you who were adopted feel like
they were rejected instead of selected?” It all adds up to a man who is so sure
of what he does, and so unsure of who he is.
Steve Jobs is a picture with a pulse — a
heartbeat. It is overwhelmingly more man than machine. This humanity drives the
film’s central concerns with an airtight script, clean direction and stellar
acting. We are spoiled with a wonderful glimpse of an artistic interpretation
of who Steve Jobs was. We see him as a tech industry giant, a flawed father and
a victim of identity crisis. “It’s about control,” the silver-screen version of
Jobs admits to Scully in regard to his uneasy feelings towards his status as an
adopted child. “I don’t understand anyone who gives it up.” And yet what makes
Jobs so intriguing as a character is his reluctance to give up any control of
his life, even if it means denying responsibility as a father. Perhaps now we
can begin to understand. Grade: A
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
High-end art auctioneer Simon (James
McAvoy) cues us in to the ins and outs of the security necessary to
protect near-priceless works of art from the would-be thugs out there
with enough “muscle and nerve” to dare to burst into an auction house
and steal a painting.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Danny Boyle reveals his Olympic playlist, The Black Keys sue Home Depot and Pizza Hut for ripping them off and Beatles desecration hits an all-time low with ZhuZhu Pets Meet The Beatles.
An adventurous filmmaker discusses '127 Hours'
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Danny Boyle's '127 Hours' is another intriguing entry in the 54-year-old British director's diverse, rapidly expanding collection of films. Since his impressive mid-1990s one-two breakthrough of 'Shallow Grave' and 'Trainspotting,' Boyle has tried his hand at a number of genres, the sign of an adventurous filmmaker eager to take on new challenges. He discusses his career and '127 Hours' with CityBeat.
Danny Boyle and James Franco team up for compelling true-life story
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 23, 2010
'127 Hours' is based on mountain climber Aron Ralston's memoir about his
misadventure in Utah's Canyonlands National Park where he became
trapped by a boulder and was forced to cut off his own arm in order to save his life. Boyle has fun playing with the challenge of presenting such a tale by compressing time with things like dream sequences that mirror Ralston's warped mental state that floated in while trapped in the middle of the desert. Grade: A.
A discerning look at the upcoming big screen slate
1 Comment · Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I'll skip the diatribe about how the year in movies has been so far. It sucks. Let's look forward. The second half of the year brings everything from film festival favorites and art house Oscar bait to documentaries and big-budget blockbusters.
Danny Boyle's Indian reality TV story is teeming with tensions
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 10, 2008
The world's second-largest city, with 13.6 million people, Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is an industrious booming place: a financial, media and glamour center for all of Asia but home to sectarian violence, as the world recently saw. 'Slumdog Millionaire' shows a Mumbai that's hard-edged and fast-moving yet also influenced by happy Bollywood romantic melodramas.