In 2013 Hollywood made a traditional, decent but somewhat conventional biopic called JOBS starring Ashton Kutcher as the Apple guru. Writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Soical Network) on the other hand opted to compress his take on the life of Steve Jobs around 3 crucial presentations the man gave starting in 1984 with the launch of the Apple Macintosh, 1988 the lauch of NeXT after he was fired from the company he co-founded, ending in 1998 with the launch of the iMac, back in the saddle with Apple.
The entire film (except for a few short flashbacks, some not surprisingly set in a garage) takes place backstage just moments before these presentations are to take place. During these hectic moments he meets the same key players, some are or granted ‘an audience’ others impose themselves forcefully.
There’s his wife Joanna Hoffman (an excellent Kate Winslet), Steve Woziak co-founder and ‘know-how’ guy of Apple (Seth Rogen just like in Take This Waltz, very convincing in a non-comedic role), John Sculley (Jeff Daniels back for some more Aaron Sorkin dialogue, still going strong in his Will ‘The Newsroom’ McAvoy cadence) the Apple CEO that got Jobs fired after the Mackintosh failure, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael ‘A Serious Man‘ Stuhlbarg) a main engineer and last but not least, the ex-wife Chrisann Brennan (Katherine ‘Inherent Vice‘ Waterston, daughter of Sam Waterston) and their daughter Lisa who he fails to recognise as his own. The only child he’s interested in is the Apple Macintosh and later the iMac. Over the course of these 15 years they all have scores to settle with Jobs or just want what they feel they’re entitled to, ranging from alimony to recognition.
Therefore the film is truly what you could call a character driven film, the drive set by Sorkin’s typically snappy, witty, bitter and spiteful dialogues. Michael Fassbender is fantasic as the title character, and even though the physical resemblance isn’t that great, his portrayal of Jobs as put on paper by Sorkin as an arrogant, self indulgent man with a vision who won’t take no for an answer is brilliant. Obsessed with making the easiest to operate, best looking, personal computer EVERYBODY is dreaming of and hence is willing to pay the price (overpriced?) for.
Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, … ) ranges in nice performances from his excellent cast and does little to hide Sorkin’s ‘concept’ of the classic 3 act play. Luckily the makers clearly see the humor of the repetitive nature (3 presentations, same characters that go at it over the course of these 15 years) of the structure they chose to tell the story in. At a certain moment of the film Jobs states with an air of desperation: “how come everyone is coming to talk to me just minutes before a product launch?”