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Sunday, October 4, 2015


Michael Fassbender in STEVE JOBS
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
NYFF Review
2015, 122 minutes
Rated R for language

By Joshua Handler

Thrusting the audience into the middle of mayhem during Steve Jobs' unfortunate launch of the Macintosh, Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin open up a window into the world of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs moves like a machine. With Michael Fassbender leading the way, daring us to keep up with him, the movie is never less than completely compelling. 

Sitting through the 122 minutes of Steve Jobs feels like an unusually fast hour. Fassbender and Boyle give us a look into the head of Jobs, but like Jobs did with those close to him, they keep us at a slight distance, always daring their audience to want to see more. 

In not a single scene do we see any of Jobs' famous product launch speeches. We see the moments immediately before. The myth of Jobs is dismantled quickly. The man shown onscreen is a person. He is an extraordinary person, but a person nonetheless. Sorkin, Fassbender, and Boyle smartly create a balanced portrait of the very flawed man that was Steve Jobs, and the way in which Sorkin concludes the film provides a moving cap to an emotionally cold film. 

As informative as big-picture biopics can be, they frequently feel like "greatest hits" versions of their subjects' lives, never focusing on one scene for long enough to allow the audience to truly understand the subject. Steve Jobs is far more effective than standard biopics because it is a film built upon isolated scenes where Jobs' every move is filmed (each scene is depicted in real time). People can never understand another person from reading a Wikipedia biography of their life. It's when one person spends time with another person that they understand them. While Steve Jobs is only three scenes, it feels as if it comes far closer to understanding who this man was than any other film that would tell his life story. 

Michael Fassbender rules over Steve Jobs with a subtly shifting performance that showcases his commanding movie star side as well as his human one. It's a performance that is never less than completely convincing, as Fassbender disappears into the man that is Steve Jobs. With this performance, he creates what is possibly the most impressive of his career.

Kate Winslet leads a strong supporting cast as Joanna Hoffman, Jobs' best friend and head of marketing. She's the calming presence in Jobs' life, balancing him out and giving him a human perspective on everything. Seth Rogen is also memorable as Steve Wozniak, Jobs' former best friend and co-founder of Apple.

Overall, Steve Jobs is the result of a group of immensely talented artists at the top of their games. Danny Boyle has orchestrated an electrifying, moving, and unusual portrait of one of the most brilliant minds in human history. Only a screenwriter like Aaron Sorkin could make some form of sense out of a life like Jobs' and create a beautifully-structured three-act film out of it. In many ways, Steve Jobs is similar to Sorkin's other film, The Social Network, but it distinguishes itself admirably. I wanted to see Steve Jobs again the minute it ended.


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