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Steve Jobs Movie Review

Steve Jobs: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Steve Jobs is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + DVD combo.

Steve Jobs (2015) movie poster Steve Jobs

Theatrical Release: October 9, 2015 / Running Time: 122 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Danny Boyle / Writers: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Walter Isaacson (book Steve Jobs)

Cast: Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), Michael Stuhlbarg (Andy Hertzfeld), Katherine Waterston (Chrisann Brennan), Perla Haney-Jardine (Lisa Brennan - 19), Ripley Sobo (Lisa Brennan - 9), Makenzie Moss (Lisa Brennan - 5), Sarah Snook (Andrea Cunningham), John Ortiz (Joel Pforzheimer), Adam Shapiro (Avie Tevanian)

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Apple co-founder and longtime CEO Steve Jobs was rich, influential, and iconic enough for Hollywood to feel obligated to give him the biopic treatment following his 2011 death. As it happens, two narrative films about the technology visionary were swiftly conceived. The first, titled Jobs and starring Ashton Kutcher, struck out with critics and at the box office upon its release in August 2013.
The second, Steve Jobs, has higher hopes. It arrives in time for awards season from a talented pedigree: Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), and a cast led by Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender and one-time winner, perennial nominee Kate Winslet. With 2013's movie already forgotten, this one runs little risk of being mistaken for the other.

After a short clip from the 1960s of sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke successfully forecasting the computer's importance, the film opens in 1984 at the conference in which Jobs is about to introduce the Macintosh personal computer, complete with a powerful big budget commercial inspired by George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984. It should be an exciting time for Jobs and his company, but he isn't at all enjoying the moment. He's stressing out over a program that is supposed to allow a computer to say "hello" to those in attendance. The program is suffering from a last-minute glitch and Jobs is pressuring its maker (Michael Stuhlbarg) to get it working now as if his life depended on it.

"Steve Jobs" stars Michael Fassbender as the titular Apple co-founder and CEO.

Backstage, Jobs is also wrestling with personal conflict. His ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) is there along with Lisa, the 5-year-old daughter Jobs insists is not his (despite his company having a computer named the Lisa), asking for financial assistance beyond the state-mandated pittance. By Jobs' side is his trusty girl Friday, Polish-American head of marketing Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), who puts up with her boss' preposterous claims and stubborn moral stands.

As written by Sorkin, this Jobs is something of an egomaniac. He is self-righteous, vindictive, and abrasive. He cringes at the sight of TIME Magazine's covers featuring the competition's computers (IBM), claiming a reporter's digging into his personal life has cost him Man of the Year honors. Prickly and precise, Jobs clashes with Apple's co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) over Macintosh's architecture, insisting their computer needs only two ports (one for modem, one for printer) and that the consumer doesn't need choice or flexible technology. He also butts heads with Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels).

The vast majority of the film plays out backstage at conferences, Jobs' perfectionist nature trumping his modest people skills again and again. Fassbender is a compelling performer and he throws himself at this part, a role he only seemed slightly better suited for than Kutcher. But no matter how flawless his American accent and no matter how well he pulls off Jobs' signature ensemble of black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers, the real star of the film is Aaron Sorkin. Famous for creating and showrunning "The West Wing" and HBO's "The Newsroom" as well as penning a handful of respected screenplays including Moneyball, A Few Good Men, and the kindred aforementioned Social Network, Sorkin is as decorated and distinctive as any writer in the business. He seizes Steve Jobs as an opportunity to remind us of his gifts for writing sharp, cutting dialogue.

This backstage dispute, which could resemble a number of other Aaron Sorkin productions, involves Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Lisa Brennan (Perla Haney-Jardine), the 19-year-old daughter whose paternity he formerly disputed.

It is tough to assess Sorkin's research and accuracy. Though it cites Walter Isaacson's Jobs-authorized 2011 biography as its basis, the film has been subject to rumblings of disapproval from Apple and from Jobs' widow, who not only opted not to assist the production but even, it was recently reported, asked some major stars not to portray her husband.

The film absolutely plays out like an Aaron Sorkin production, with zingers hurled in various directions and underappreciated mortals placed in the destructive path of a chippy, exacting genius. Much of the banter feels imagined and scripted, even if the gist of the exchanges aligns with what has been documented.

The real value of Steve Jobs lies not in learning about its subject or his personal life (which apart from his paternity dispute and stingy child support is left out), but in seeing this famous figure wrestle with success and failure over the course of fourteen years. The movie ends in 1998 at the event where Jobs is about to unveil the game-changing iMac. His guarded health battles and much-anticipated product launches to come are nowhere to be seen. The company's garage tinkering origins are treated to mere glimpses and the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft, dramatized in the 1999 TNT movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, is present only as subtext. Steve Jobs cannot be accused of being a conventional, standard issue biopic. Nor can it be described as lurid and opportunistic, as certain people have declared it sight unseen.

Boyle does inject some filmic flair, with help from nice compositions by German cinematographer Alwin H. Kόchler and an appealing faintly techie score by the UK's Daniel Pemberton. Still, the show thoroughly belongs to Sorkin, who lets characters talk and talk and bicker and talk, eschewing action and even scenery changes as much as humanly possible. That design may sound like heaven for Sorkin's most devout fans, those who revere his dialogue like Gospel, continue to lament the cancellation of "The Newsroom" and remain angry that more people didn't see the brilliance in "Sports Night" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." But it does render the proceedings a tad stuffy and theatrical (two adjectives you could also attach to the Academy's reigning Best Picture winner, which this slightly recalls). It is a film that is easier to appreciate for its dialogue than to love for its relatively thinly-drawn characters and non-existent narrative.

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Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Bridge of Spies • The Martian • The Walk • Sicario • 99 Homes • Everest • Pawn Sacrifice • The Intern
Written by Aaron Sorkin: The Newsroom: The Complete First Season • Moneyball | Directed by Danny Boyle: 127 Hours • Shallow Grave
Michael Fassbender: The Counselor • X-Men: First Class | Kate Winslet: A Little Chaos • Labor Day • Revolutionary Road • Titanic
Seth Rogen: The Interview • The Green Hornet | Michael Stuhlbarg: A Serious Man • Hugo | Katherine Waterston: Inherent Vice

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Reviewed October 16, 2015.

Text copyright 2015 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Universal Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Decibel Films, and Cloud Eight Films.
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