Tuesday, 15 March 2016

'Steve Jobs' Review

I've never really liked Apple products, there's something about the unwavering and unquestioned loyalty of Apple fans that bothers me slightly, and the idea of a film that idolises the man behind the company in that same way didn't appeal to me.  Then I saw the trailers for the film and saw that the team behind the film were not holding Jobs up as a great man, but an incredibly flawed, and at times horrible, person.

'Steve Jobs' takes an approach to telling their story that not many films would.  Rather than telling a traditionally structured begin to end story of the rise and fall and rise again of the man, the film is split into three separate acts.  Each of these acts takes place in real time before an Apple product launch, occasionally containing brief flashbacks as characters speak.

The first section of the film is set in 1984, and covers the release of the Macintosh, the computer that would be the company mascot throughout the 1980's.  The middle section covers the launch of the NeXTcube in 1988, where Jobs has parted ways with Apple to launch his own device.  The third and final section of the film covers the launch of the iMac, the computer that would make Steve Jobs a household name and let Apple become the powerhouse it is today.

Each section of the film are filmed on different mediums, and coupled with differences in set design, costume and hairstyles, gives each section their own distinct feel.  The 1984 section is filmed in 16mm, the 1988 section in 35mm, and the 1998 section in digital.  Director Danny Boyle stated that he filmed each section this way to help illustrate the advances in Apple technology across the sixteen years depicted in the film.

It's only after reading about this difference in filming technique and looking back at the film that I've actually become aware of the changes.  Instead of being jarring and disruptive they fit seamlessly into the narrative and helps to show the passage of time.  I remembered thinking at the time that things looked more slick and modern in the final section, but put this down to changes in costume and the background technology, but it's easy to see now how the visual style altered too.

The best part of the film though has to be watching great actors a verbal ballet with each other, using the brilliance of Aaron Sorkin to turn what could have been a dull 'talky' film into a genuine pleasure to watch.  Sorkin brings his flair of passionate and hard hitting dialogue and character building that a film like 'Steve Jobs' needs in order to be successful and entertaining.  Indeed, it was knowing that Sorkin wrote the script that actually drew me to the film the most.  

Every scene is interesting and engaging, whether people are talking about technology, family and personal issues, or even talking about sharks (yes, there is even a great conversation about pictures of sharks in a film about Steve Jobs and Apple) it jumps out of the screen at you and draws you in.  the writing for the film is second to none, and I think that if you're going to talk about truly great dialogue writers like Quentin Tarantino or Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin absolutely must be on that same list.

The films' cast are all on top form, and feel perfect for the roles they play.  Fassbender might not look perfectly like the man he's playing, but he brings his charisma and magnetism to a role that could have come across as thoroughly unlikable if played by another actor, and delivers a flawless performance throughout.  Seth Rogen proves that he can do more than play the funny man in a role that I'd not have expected to see him in as Steve Wozniak, the man who founded Apple alongside Jobs.

For me, the stand out performance has to go to Kate Winslet, playing Joanna Hoffman, Jobs' marketing executive, and possibly his best friend.  She plays both his confidante and his conscience throughout, calling him out on his mistakes and challenging him in a way that no other character in the film was able to.  Her performance was so engrossing and engaging (and her hair and costume so brilliant) that I didn't even realise that it was her in the role until the very end and the credits rolled.

Yes, there are certain parts of the film that take liberties with the real events they depict, Steve Wozniak and John Sculley weren't at the 1988 launch event, and the idea that Jobs launched the NeXT flawed just so he could use it to get back into Apple seems to be a falsity made to make it seem like he had a plan all along, instead of just releasing a flawed product.

The biggest departure that I've read about though was the relationship with his daughter.  One of the most compelling parts of the film, his reluctant relationship with his daughter and the way he treated her over the years, gets wrapped up quite nicely in the film when the two of them have a reconciliation at the 1998 launch, and we discover that he's been carrying around a picture she made on the mack in his pocket for the last sixteen years.  From what I've seen this never happened in real life, for one thing Lisa Brennan-Jobs never made her father that picture in 1984.

Perhaps Sorkin felt that he needed something of a happier and uplifting ending to the film in order to make the audience forget, or at least forgive, a lot of Jobs' actions throughout the film.  The sudden shift in their relationship at the end feels very forced and doesn't feel true to what we've seen up to that point.  If it really did happen then that's fine, but from everything I've read it didn't, and it does feel like the most fake aspect of the whole film.

'Steve Jobs' tells a story of a deeply flawed man, and whilst it might not change the views of hardcore Apple fans as to what he was like, it certainly helped shed light onto a side of him that I'd never heard of before.

It's a film about people, there's no goal that drives anyone in this film, no end point that people are trying to reach, it's just a film about people, about the way they act to others and the things that drive them.  The cast is phenomenal, the writing is second to none and the cinematography is clever and unique without drawing you out of the viewing experience.

Even if you don't like Steve Jobs or Apple this is a film that manages to stand on its own and tell its own very human story without having to appeal to the people who buy Apple products.  


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