by NEVIL GIBSON
Two films in the past few years about a legendary American businessman Steve Jobs would normally be considered excessive.
But Apple Computer cofounder is no ordinary man. He prematurely died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 and has inspired a shelf-load of books.
Last year’s little-seen documentary by Alex Gibney (Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine) was preceded by Joshua
Michael Stern’s Jobs (2013), which deserved a better reception.
Films about business are not easy and Ashton Kutcher made a creditable job of balancing the negative and positive parts of Jobs’ personality. The treatment was largely reverential, but was illuminating about Jobs’ early
In Steve Jobs (Universal), Danny Boyle takes a different approach, focusing on just three major events taken from
Walter Issacson’s monumental biography.
The screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) is superior and the casting of Michael Fassbender in the lead
is another step up in star quality.
Despite this, Steve Jobs received a lukewarm reception in the United States, although it was much higher rated by the critics.
It was said to be too clever and emotionally uninvolving.
Mostly, I think, the subject was overexposed and there’s a limit to how much exposure some people deserve.
Boyle and Sorkin’s choice of the defining moments in Jobs’ life are each framed as backstage dramas at three public launches of new products.
The first takes place in 1984 when Jobs, aged 29, is about to launch the first Macintosh. Panic is pervasive as Jobs’ personal assistant, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) , tries to keep things under control.
Despite the best efforts of software developer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), the computer refuses to say “hello” for the large and excited audience.
Jobs’ famous temper is on display as he misses out on a promised Time magazine cover story.
His tangled personal life also surfaces as his former girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), shows up with their five-year-old daughter, Lisa, whom he has disowned.
Four years later, Jobs has been sacked from Apple and has another eager audience awaiting the launch of his new company, NeXT. Cue more chaos backstage as the arrival of John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), who took over as Apple
chief executive three years earlier, adds to the complications.
Also on hand is Apple’s other founder, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who predicts the failure of Jobs’ new venture.
Finally, in 1998 in San Francisco, Jobs, now 43 and back at Apple, is about to launch the iMac and is confronted by the now 19-year-old Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine).
Sorkin’s screenplay crackles with tasty information about business and plenty of one-liners.
As played by Fassbender, Jobs is no less a mass of contradictions than his earlier screen depictions: indifferent to the point of abusiveness about other people’s feelings, fanatical about perfection and severely lacking in emotional intelligence. Not the best formula for a crowd-pleaser despite the quality.
Rating: Mature audiences (offensive language); 122 minutes.