In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “Sorkin can write quips with the best of them, the only problem is, he puts the same style of quips in every character’s mouth, and they all come with such a smug, self satisfied, shit eating grin.”
“What do you do? You’re not an engineer. You’re not a designer. You can’t put a hammer to a nail. I built the circuit board! The graphical interface was stolen! So how come ten times in a day I read Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?”
Danny Boyle is one of the most interesting and visually creative directors in mainstream movie making. Aaron Sorkin is one of the few screenwriters who even casual film fans known his name. Steve Jobs is one of the biggest icons of the last decade with acolytes all over the world. All three of those ingredients should have lead to big box office and awards season success. And before the release of their collaboration, everyone assumed that would be the case. Then it was released, and no one bothered to see it, and Steve Jobs became a surprising flop. And to be honest, it’s flopping is the only reason I was curious enough to watch it. How could Boyle and Sorkin, making a movie about Jobs, be so inessential?
In 1984, Apple founder Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is getting ready to launch the Macintosh computer. Backstage, he deals with a glitchy computer that may not be ready to impress, and a disgruntled ex lover (Katherine Waterston as Chrisann) wanting child support for a child Jobs denies is his, even though a paternity test and judge have ruled that she is. He’s also harangued by co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), reminding him that sharing a little credit with his staff wouldn’t be a bad idea. All while Apple CEO John Scully (Jeff Daniels) warns Jobs that his latest product could mean the end of his career. The only person offering blind support to Jobs is his head of marketing, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet).
That is act one. Acts two and three take on similar formats. Getting ready for the launch of his Next computer in 1988 and his glorious return to Apple, launching the iMac in 1998. The same people appear again, with their grievances and loyalty fluctuation over the years. Highlighting the arrogance and single mindedness of Jobs that lead to his greatest professional successes, and his biggest personal foibles.
Watching Steve Jobs, I think it’s clear why it didn’t set the world on fire. Its central character is an immensely unlikable prick. I have never worshipped at the altar of Jobs or Apple. I’ve never found him in any way fascinating or even remotely interesting. But even I had heard enough to know that was renowned as being an immensely unlikeable prick. So who wants to spend two hours with a person like that?
For me though, the biggest problem is the screenplay. I loved The West Wing, I thought The Social Network and Moneyball were impressive in the way they took such dry material, and turned it into amazingly gripping drama. But a year or two ago, I turned on Sorkin based on his TV show, The Newsroom. I don’t hate watch many things, but that mess of a show got me angry in a way that was almost addictive. Every character sounded exactly the same, as they delivered lectures to the audience about what we should all think, because that’s what Sorkin thinks. And I had a similar problem with Steve Jobs. Sorkin can write quips with the best of them, the only problem is, he puts the same style of quips in every character’s mouth, and they all come with such a smug, self satisfied, shit eating grin.
But it’s not all bad. Fassbender and Winslet get the most screen time and they’re both fantastic. Just like Rogen and Daniels more than deliver with their oh-so-Sorkin speeches. And Boyle’s flare is exactly what this talkie movie set in corridors and back rooms needs to stay vibrant and entertaining. The only blemish is, those performances and direction are in service of a kind of arrogant script, telling a story about a supremely arrogant man.
Budget $30million / U.S Box Office $31million
Instead of Steve Jobs, watch a much more straight forward and thorough examination of his ass holery with Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.