True Confession: I wanted to see this movie because it looked interesting and appeared to be a warts and all look at one of the creative tech icons of our time. The hubs had no interest, because, as he put it, he didn’t want to spend two hours watching a billionaire asshole be an asshole.
Ladies and gentlemen – the hubs was right.
Steve Jobs plays like the middle of a three part trilogy. We don’t get to see the beginning – where we find out why we care about our hero and see his rise and the successes and failures that make him the “man he is today”. We also don’t get to see the end – where he really does change the world and, possibly, becomes a slightly better, older, and wiser person as he’s slowly dying from cancer.
No. We get to see the middle, where he is literally all asshole, all the time.
But first, the good. The acting is great. No, make that stellar. This is a movie that should be shown in acting classes, to show aspiring actors how to do it all right. Every single actor is amazing. Seth Rogen was, for the first time, a revelation. Michael Fassbender was his usual amazing, and make that triple for Kate Winslet. Jeff Daniels – amazeballs. Every other actor, including the child actors – excellent. This movie is unique for me – one where the acting is so superb that I desperately want to love the movie because the actors are so fab, but the movie doesn’t work at all and I’m disappointed because it could have really been something.
The movie truly doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work for a variety of reasons. So many reasons. But the main reason is that there is no real beginning and there is no real end. There is only middle.
We spend the entire movie “backstage” a three different product launches. We never actually see the products launch or hear his speeches, we just get to see what goes on backstage. Apparently, that’s when everyone in Jobs’ circle likes to tell him what they think – that he’s an unreasonable asshole who needs to stop treating everyone like dirt and who is wrong about whatever it is he thinks he’s right about – so he can yell at them and tell them how he’s a genius and they’re wrong. For most of the movie, they’re right and he’s not, so we’re really having to take the genius on faith. Which is part of the problem. We have to take anything that actually matters about this man’s life on faith – faith that it happened.
We are, apparently, supposed to have entered this movie up to date on all things Jobs. We need to know why he and Wozniak were friends and working together in that garage in the first place. We need to know that Apple was actually a successful company before the Macintosh. We also need to know about everything that happened after the iMac launch, because the movie literally just goes black after that.
Oh, but don’t know too much – like that the Mac wasn’t the gigantic failure this movie makes it out to be but actually became industry standard for any business that required art (like advertising and marketing agencies) and was actually in schools across the country. (The movie had a perfect way to show this, too, based on an early scene with Jobs’ daughter, Lisa, but never took advantage of it.) Macs did change computing, and not just because they gave Microsoft something to imitate – because they allowed nontechnical people to use a computer with little to no training. But you only get to know this because I was alive and using a Mac at the time this movie is set so I can tell you about it. The movie doesn’t share these facts, because they’re not dramatic enough, I guess.
The situation with his daughter is dramatic enough. He’s a crap father who at least provides money is the bottom line. And yet, even with this plot thread, which it’s clear the filmmakers think is showing us all the Inner Jobs we need to see, it’s not enough, and there is no conclusion.
This movie paints everything in black and white, no shades of gray. But the thing is, this is a biopic. Gray is a matter of life. And yet, there is no gray here. There is no heart here, either. There are a lot of good lines that got a lot of laughs at the screening I saw, but the lines that actually matter – the lines that, had they been acted upon or reacted to properly, would have made this the great film the filmmakers seem to think it is – are ignored or thrown away and we get the same thing over and over again. (Hint: asshole. At varying volumes.)
Maybe Jobs never became anything less than an asshole. But since the movie’s credits admit that people were merged into one character and events were changed for dramatic interpretation, I think we could have seen something resembling catharsis or redemption.
I was willing to give this movie the full benefit of the doubt – because, OMG, the ACTING IS SO FREAKING AWESOME – until the ending. Because the biggest problem with Steve Jobs is that the movie doesn’t conclude. It just… ends.
I was tempted to be precious and end my review right there, but I’m not Aaron Sorkin or Danny Boyle and I actually know that a conclusion is important in pretty much all forms of media.
So, back to the worst ending in recent memory. It’s like the Sopranos ending without the art. The screen goes black in the middle of a scene and you literally expect the next act to be coming because there is no way that this movie can possibly be finished because we have had absolutely no real conclusion. And then the credits roll. And that is literally that. (What the hubs said at the end of this movie is probably best not repeated.)
The best line in the movie comes from Wozniak. As he and Jobs are fighting again about the same thing they’ve been fighting about the entire movie – Jobs’ unwillingness to give anyone who worked on the Apple2 any kind of kudo, ever, because he’s an utter asshole – Woz says, “It’s not binary, Steve. You can be a genius and decent at the same time.”
He’s right. It’s not binary. You can make a warts and all biopic that also has a beginning, an ending, and some kind of heart. It’s just that Steve Jobs is not that movie.
Rating: Acting — 5 Stars; Movie – 2.5 Stars (and the .5 is for the actors)
Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter.
Michael Fassbender plays Steve Jobs, the pioneering founder of Apple, with Academy Award®-winning actress Kate Winslet starring as Joanna Hoffman, former marketing chief of Macintosh. Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, is played by Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels stars as former Apple CEO John Sculley.
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
The acting is great. No, make that stellar. This is a movie that should be shown in acting classes, to show aspiring actors how to do it all right. Every single actor is amazing. But the movie truly doesn’t work for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is that there is no real beginning and there is no real end. There is only middle.