Movie review: Steve Jobs is a bittersweet symphony about the man who put a thousand songs in your pocket | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, October 23, 2015

Movie review: Steve Jobs is a bittersweet symphony about the man who put a thousand songs in your pocket

Posted by Google on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 11:52 AM

click to enlarge steve-jobs-movie-poster-800px-800x1259.jpg
Steve Jobs
★★★★ ½
Now playing


Steve Jobs is essentially a three-act opera. Each part is set at different times, inside different California concert halls, with composer Daniel Pemberton’s soundtrack accompanied by dollops of Bob Dylan and indie rock. The same characters rotate through each act, and at one point, Jobs (a mesmerizing Michael Fassbender) likens them to an orchestra that he conducts.

But instead of being sung, the lyrics are set in screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s distinctive cadence. When scolded for shunning his young daughter, the stubborn, visionary and messianic Apple guru retorts, “God sent his only son on a suicide mission, but we like him anyway because he made trees.” It’s the sort of quintessential Sorkin line you either love or loathe. As with this borderline brilliant film, I emphatically align with the former.

Eschewing the standard cradle-to-grave biopic, Sorkin (an Oscar winner for The Social Network) and director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) tailor their narrative around Jobs backstage before three of his famously hyped product launches, each emblematic of his personal and professional arc. The prelude to his debut of the ill-fated Macintosh computer in 1984 introduces a cocksure but demanding Jobs, who attracts admirers for his product and marketing savvy while ostracizing those same disciples with pettiness and intransigence.

Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), Jobs’ longtime confidant, both suffers and attempts to mollify his personality foibles. Jobs holds a decade-long grudge against Time magazine for naming the computer, not him, its “Man of the Year” in 1982. He threatens to publicly belittle engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), a member of the original Mac team whose only crime is trying to please his boss. Jobs stubbornly rebuffs the vain, almost comical refrain of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) to merely “acknowledge the Apple II guys” during any one of Jobs’ product launches.

The shared narrative thread running through each act is Jobs’ relationship with his daughter, Lisa (portrayed at different ages by three actresses). His cruel denial of paternity in 1984, despite a blood test and court order, softens by 1988, though his relationship with Lisa’s mother, Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), remains caustic. Set in the San Francisco Opera House around the launch of the equally doomed NeXT computer, Act 2 finds a slightly chastened Jobs coping with his ouster from Apple at the behest of its CEO, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). A hallway face-off between Jobs and Sculley, crosscut with flashbacks to Jobs’ stormy firing and Pemberton’s soaring score, is an exquisite sequence I could watch on a loop ad infinitum.

By 1998, a vindicated Jobs has replaced Sculley as Apple CEO and rescued the company from near-bankruptcy. Clad in his trademark black turtleneck and blue jeans, Jobs prepares to introduce the iMac, with passing allusions to the iPod, iPhone and iTunes forecasting his industry dominance. At the same time, he finally faces Wozniak and Hertzfeld’s hurt, rues the lost greatness he and Sculley could have had and hears Hoffman’s exasperation over Jobs’ treatment of a now-teenage Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine). The peace Jobs and Lisa reach is an uneasy one, forged mainly by him prioritizing her over business, if only for a few minutes. When Jobs promises to one day put a thousand songs in Lisa’s pocket, it resonates with the charm and whimsy of a ditty.

Jobs made (or at least, marketed) the trees, and this film’s small fault is that it can’t see the forest for them. The film never cracks Jobs’ veneer to dissect the origins of his genius or madness—a few fleeting references in Act 3 to his adopted childhood are the closest it comes. But Jobs was always more attuned to the sizzle than the steak, and Sorkin and Boyle’s aim is illuminating an enigma, not solving it.

Steve Jobs doesn’t comprehend Steve Jobs—maybe no one ever did. But through a stylized marriage of writing, directing and Fassbender’s terrific acting, we feel like we know the man who put a thousand songs in our pocket.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

I agree that the vocal work is incredible! And, I thought that the well-made and beautifully-designed set really supported the …

by Judy Dove on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

WELCOME TO THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD.
Do you want to be a member of Illuminati as a brotherhood that will make …

by peter bello on Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight (Arts)

The last thing Chapel Hill needs is another damn restaurant.

by Chrysser on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation