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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Movie Review - Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (2015)
Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss
Directed by Danny Boyle

Told in three acts in "real time" with each detailing the forty minutes leading up to a product launch, Steve Jobs is a unique experience of a film told in a provocative way by director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin who have created something I've yet to see before that quite frankly shouldn't have worked, but proves exceedingly successful.  Providing excitement through dialog -- a rarity in art nowadays -- Sorkin and Boyle have crafted not so much a biopic, but a look at how a man's psyche and emotional state can both change over time and remain disappointingly the same.

There's certainly no way that prior to the 1984 launch of Macintosh, the 1988 launch of the Next computer system, and the 1998 launch of the iMac that Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) received visits from Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Apple programmer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), colleague Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), ex-wife Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), and daughter Lisa (played at the three stages by Makenzie Moss, Ripley Sobo, and Perla Haney-Jardine). There's also certainly no way that this group of people conveniently visited Jobs so that their respective story lines with the Apple founder/genius could progress in their respective manners.  There's also certainly no way that in the moments leading up to some incredibly important product launches, a man like Jobs would allow himself to be pulled away from such pivotal career moments to deal with crumbling personal and workplace relationships.  Yet, for some reason, thanks to the rather ingenious storytelling by Aaron Sorkin, this film and its rather obvious regimented set-up works.

Rarely do I write a review where I find myself giving tons of credit to the screenwriter, but in the case of Steve Jobs, I think what Aaron Sorkin does to create an atmosphere where the obviously manufactured set-ups work is something of a revelatory experience.  Part of the reason I think the three act structure is so hugely successful is Sorkin and director Danny Boyle's insistence to have the scenes play out in real time.  As Jobs's right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) tries to wrangle her boss into prepping for his big event(s), we in the audience find ourselves gradually inching towards the edge of our seats desperate to see whether everything will be resolved by the time Jobs needs to take the stage.  As the film progresses and the second and third acts begin, we in the audience are now aware of the gimmick and the insistence of Sorkin to have Jobs meet up with all the aforementioned people, and the anticipation we felt in Act One grows even more as we now find ourselves desperate to discover how Jobs's relationships will either become positively or negatively affected by his actions.  This concept is a writer's conceit but it, along with Sorkin's fast-talking, highfalutin dialog, works.  (Seriously, how often do we hear the words "halcyon" and "somnambulant" in movies?)

Three paragraphs in and I've yet to discuss what may very well be the best cast assembled for a 2015 release when the RyMickey Awards roll around next year (there's a ways to go still, though).  There's not a bad egg in the bunch and everyone bites into the Sorkin mile-a-minute pitter-patter style with gusto and rolls with it.  Michael Fassbender is great as Jobs, although the film admittedly doesn't quite give the character the emotional arc it actually thinks it does -- his comeuppance at the hands of his teenage daughter while bitingly written and believably acted is the only aspect of the film that feels a tad contrived (and that's saying something in a film whose structure is entirely contrived).  Still, Fassbender is in every moment of the film and his interactions with each and every actor feel natural, real, and never forced.  Great work is also had by Katherine Waterston and Kate Winslet -- two women playing very different roles, neither of which are easy by any means, but both of which are absolutely necessary for the title character to be a fully realized one.  Quite surprising is Seth Rogen's take on Steve Wozniak.  Usually the star, Rogen is relegated to second banana, but his Wozniak is a character desperate for attention from his father figure in Steve.  Much like Jobs has all but abandoned his daughter (a pivotal Act One moment that resurfaces in subsequent acts), he has also left Wozniak behind and Rogen's depiction of Woz's woeful despondency and his deteriorating relationship with Jobs is the emotional crux of the piece for me.  (Their showdown in Act Three is fascinating stuff.)

Although I've heaped much praise on Aaron Sorkin, credit is also due to Danny Boyle who has created a rhythm in Steve Jobs that causes this talky, play-like film to move at a breakneck pace.  I'm not sure I've ever seen a film so chockfull of dialog that felt this fast-paced to me and the real time aspect of the three acts ingeniously keeps the tension palpable.  Kudos also to the concept of utilizing three different types of film -- 16mm, 35mm, and digital -- creating unique visual imprints in order to capture the various acts.

Whether or not Steve Jobs depicts the exact psychological journey of Steve Jobs "The Man" I don't know; but I do know that the film showcases talented folks in front of and behind the lens who have crafted a cinematic experience that still has me thinking about it nearly a week after watching it.  There aren't too many films that I experience in a theater that have me wanting to rush out and see it again -- and there certainly aren't many biopics that make me feel that way -- but Steve Jobs did just that.

The RyMickey Rating:  A-

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