To the Power of Three
★★★ out of ★★★★
A Speaks Movie Review
A Speaks Movie Review
Listen: I use Apple products as if there is nothing else. But I have no interest in the man Steve Jobs. I do have interest in anything Aaron Sorkin writes. I don't care much for Danny Boyle as a filmmaker. With these sorts of divides, I would imagine I was a bit of a tough audience for this film.
Having said that, I liked the new film Steve Jobs, based on the biography by Walter Isaacson, a man who also tackled Einstein and Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger.
I most certainly didn't love it.
I take that back. I loved one part of it, and then I just loved parts of it. I loved all the performances and the balls-to-the-wall rhythm and harsh humor of Sorkin's dialogue. But the structure of this thing is tight, even for Sorkin, a man known for tight scripting. It's too tight here. And it makes a final product that is just nowhere near a great movie.
Set in three distinct time periods around three product launches (the Mac in 1984, the NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998) and run in real time, each segment running between 30 and 40 minutes, Steve Jobs is a screenplay that seemingly allows for directorial touches only in broad strokes. The only thing Danny Boyle really brings is a stylistic choice in the look of a film, with each segment shot on a different format. He also brings out some good performances. All of the principal parts are perfectly cast and even more perfectly executed. I don't see enough of Boyle as a stylist here, something of which he is easily capable.
The first segment is far and away the best the film has to offer. It is plain genius-level brilliant. Shot in grainy 16mm, it plays at breakneck speed with dialogue so sharp and witty and fast, it's hard to even keep up. Michael Fassbender plays the title character with an energy rarely seen. It is a fascinating performance from a man who resembles the real-life Jobs, who died in 2011, in really not a single way but who embodies his spirit with true passion. As the story begins, the stage is being set for the launch of Jobs first real baby, the "closed end-to-end" personal computer called Macintosh. The idea was to create a machine that could be fully controlled by Apple in a time when personal computer users were geeks who wanted to customize and build and add-on. It's no secret that Jobs truly saw into the future here. Nobody else would catch up with this idea until he comes back around again with the iMac in 1998. But I digress...
It's 1984 and several problems ensue at the annual Apple stockholders meeting, where the Mac will be introduced. Jobs' PR aficionado and personal assistant, Joanna (Kate Winslet) is the messenger. A Time Magazine cover is a cause for concern. Software engineer, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) can't get the Mac to say "Hello." Steve "Woz" Wozniak (Seth Rogen) wants a nod in the presentation. He is, after all, the brains behind Apple II, the companies most successful product. Apple CEO, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) has to express his congratulations (a bit prematurely). And, then, on top of all the madness, there's Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), a former girlfriend of Steve's with a five-year-old named Lisa. Steve is adamant that she is not his daughter.
All of this plays clearly with great energy and is an absolute joy. But what happens after is the biggest letdown. The same rotation is run through again...and then one more time. Each act sort of weakening and slowing as it goes to the point where, when we get to the final segment, it is almost at a dead standstill. The same conversations are still happening, the gaps in time explained with a dialogue of exposition, and, save a couple of incredible scenes here and there, there is just not much to grab onto, let alone be impressed with.
The worst thing about this chopped-up structure is how it tries to force this relationship between Steve and his daughter. It's touching here and there and there is some great dialogue about song lyrics and music. But there just isn't enough time within the time constraints to truly make the audience feel what it wants us to feel.
I haven't read Isaacson's biography, but I know it doesn't take this structure and probably really gets at the heart of the man. Sorkin's script is flashy and fun but so tight there is no room for compassion or empathy or even understanding. Maybe in the hands of a David Fincher, this would've been reworked into something a bit more fluid. He, of course, directed Sorkin's Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network and created what I feel to be the best movie of the current decade.
Sorkin took a gamble here and tried something interesting. It may have even paid off for some. Not me. I left wanting. Which is far from where I started.