This is the second Steve Jobs biopic in three years, but it will definitely be the last one. No one in their right mind would try to follow this movie.
Steve Jobs tells the incredible true sto- I’m sorry, I can’t even type that with a straight face.
The film condenses all the major relationships in the entrepreneur’s life into three frantic sequences just before the launches of the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988 and the iMac in 1998. Jobs (Michael Fassbender) bickers with marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), condescends to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and team member Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), rages against Apple CEO and apparent father figure John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) and comes to grips with his own daughter, Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo and Perla Haney-Jardine at ages 5, 9 and 19, respectively) before each of the launches.
The heart of any story is its conflict, and Steve Jobs is a two-hour barrage of it. Jobs is either yelling or being yelled at the full run time. There isn’t any other kind of scene in this movie. Could it be seen as a little much by the end? Sure. But this is raw storytelling that lives up to the best movies of what has been an extremely rich year. The moral of the story, the movie’s context and accuracy, they’re not what matters here. This is about great actors delivering even greater lines.
Writer Aaron Sorkin has repeated himself so many times in a 31-year career it’s become a joke, but movies like Steve Jobs are why people are willing to look past that. This movie is essentially a trilogy of 45-minute shorts that are all nearly identical. So many things — Wozniak’s pleas for Jobs to acknowledge the Apple II team, Sculley’s incisive discussion of Jobs’ adoption-driven insecurities — repeat within the movie just because of the structure, but it somehow stays fresh. Sorkin does a masterful job of both delivering the goods early on and somehow saving more for the next round.
This movie does not exist without Michael Fassbender. That man would have instant onscreen chemistry with someone else’s burnt out lightbulb, and the rest of the cast kind of keeps up, but eventually it starts to feel like these scenes would be just as lively and entertaining if they were between Fassbender and drying concrete. Someone should be fired for even considering other actors — Fassbender joined the project after George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper were all in some degree of talks for the part.
So, obviously, all of these fights didn’t take place half an hour before a major product launch. The film is set in only three early mornings spread across 14 years, with a brief earlier scene expertly woven in to each segment, but these conflicts were spread around the entirety of that time span. Obviously. Obviously! There shouldn’t be any question that this movie is far from accurate in any literal sense.
Biopics have been all the rage in Oscar season for a few years now, with Sorkin’s own The Social Network and Moneyball dropping in September of 2010 and 2011, respectively, and the best ones — those movies and this one included — are at least probably quite inaccurate, to the point that they paint still-living people in a very negative light. Former MLB manager Art Howe in particular spoke against his antagonistic portrayal in Moneyball. But the worst biopics — Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game are examples from last year — are the ones that do the opposite and have no villains at all. The confused morality of the good biopics — J. Edgar and Foxcatcher are some examples from other writers — are what makes them good, but also what makes them inflammatory toward surviving participants.
For the record, the real life Wozniak said it was almost like watching the real Steve Jobs, but that’s probably because he consulted on the script. Everyone else says it’s complete fiction and Jobs was a much nicer guy than that.
This is important, because this is going to be the definitive story of the late entrepreneur. No one is ever going to try to follow this up, it’s too good. The fact that this movie isn’t a true story, despite that being part of what makes it so good, is a big deal, because a lot of people will look to it as one.
Steve Jobs will expand into wide release Oct. 23.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Jared Nangle is one cool cat. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.