Steve Jobs

Directed By: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels

The adaptations keep on coming.  I obsess over the unusually large wave of films based on books, public figures, and other source materials as this fall movie season rolls onward.  As I look at the slate of films on hand this weekend, I've come to realize that there's a smaller trend in recent years as well, one focused on technology.  Recognizing the role technology plays in our lives, Hollywood has taken to telling the true stories behind its evolution.  From the development of the first computer by Alan Turing in The Imitation Game to the meteoric rise of social media giant Facebook in The Social Network, we've seen many of these movies in the last several years.  With the passing of Apple's larger-than-life co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, it should come as no surprise that studios have had an appetite to make films about his life and the monumental transformation of technology he helped to usher in.  We've had iSteve. We've had Jobs.  Now, we have Steve Jobs.

It's 1984, and Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is about to go out on stage and reveal the Macintosh to the world.  There's just one problem.  The damn thing won't say hello to him.  Taking his frustrations out on employee Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), Jobs makes it clear that the success of the Macintosh has a lot riding on its ability to speak.  Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) isn't worried given that the company is more heavily reliant on sales of Steve Wozniak's (Seth Rogen) Apple II personal computer.  This is no comfort for the perfectionist Jobs, however.  He just keeps cracking the whip.

While Jobs is busy worrying about the Macintosh, his colleague and confidant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is busy worrying about Jobs.  She is also worrying about the arrival of Jobs' ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the mother of his daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, & Makenzie Moss).  Her worries are right as Chrisann is looking for some financial support as Steve is in the midst of one of the most important days of his career.  It suffices to say that Jobs is less than thrilled to learn of her arrival as he tries to make history.  The film covers several key periods in Jobs’ life.

If nothing else, Steve Jobs is a bold character study.  Chronicling the moments behind the big moments in Jobs' life, Danny Boyle's brooding drama based on the book of the same name relentlessly explores key periods in Jobs' public life in a very personal way while resisting the temptation to recreate his larger-than-life moments we all remember on the big screen.  Offering all the typical underpinnings of an Aaron Sorkin-penned screenplay and touting a robust cast led by one of the great actors of his generation, Boyle's latest film delivers the goods with one intriguing and engaging exploration of Jobs and the people that played key roles in his life.  Still, I can't help but feel there's something missing, something that's holding Steve Jobs back from greatness.  Standing at the precipice of major innovations that changed the way we interact with one another on a daily basis, the film is lacking a certain grandiosity.

Portraying public figures is always a challenge for any cast, but this challenge is particularly difficult with a film like Steve Jobs given that most of the cast is alive and well (with one notable exception).  The final product proves to be a testament to the talents of this cast, however.  For his part as our titular character, Michael Fassbender once again rises to the occasion and delivers a nuanced portrayal of the man behind the myth and the dark ambition that at times drives him.  At the same time, he doesn't forget the essentials of portraying such a well-known public figure.  Fassbender has the look, the body language, and the voice.  He delivers the full package in one of the stronger performances we've seen on the big screen this year.

For her part as Jobs' partner-in-crime Joanna Hoffman, Kate Winslet gives a headstrong performance.  Bringing this tough yet compassionate woman to life, she proves to be the moral compass of the film time and time again.  I also appreciate her use of a solid Polish dialect given the real life Hoffman's background.  Seth Rogen makes for an interesting Steve Wozniak.  The character he gives us can be best described as pouty, but he manages to trade some heated dialogue with Fassbender on a few enjoyable occasions.  Finally, we have Jeff Daniels as Jeff Daniels.  He certainly delivers a solid interpretation of John Sculley.  It's clear, however, that The Newsroom star is in his own element with the Sorkin screenplay.

Again, Steve Jobs is an intriguing and engaging film.  It just doesn't rise to the level of greatness for which I hoped.  The latest adaptation of Jobs’ life to hit the big screen gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.