Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard// Film Critic
There’s no doubt about it: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs changed how we interact with the world on a daily basis. He, along with co-founder Steve Wozniak, irrevocably changed the face of technology. However, Jobs is the one who, for a long time, was the sole recipient of the public’s praise. Director Danny Boyle’s STEVE JOBS taps into these frustrations and those of many other people in his inner circle, gifting audiences with an electrifying, symphonic masterpiece.
Similar to the products Jobs launched, this ground-breaking biopic is something everyone needs to experience. We lost our minds over it and think you will too. But in case you are hesitant, here are the five reasons why this film needs to go in your eyeballs.
Steve Jobs is Charles Foster Kane for the iGeneration. There are many parallels between STEVE JOBS and CITIZEN KANE: Both were tortured heroes leading a revolutionary charge in their industries. Both are iconic corporate figureheads with inner demons who seem to share a similar ideology – exacting control over all who surround them the same way they control their empires. Both tell a great American tale about struggle, failure and success. And both are perfect films – destined to launch a thousand think pieces comparing the two.
Aaron Sorkin’s kinetic pentameter. You may already know the stories and will get a kick out of the technologic nostalgia on display, but what really makes the film come alive is Aaron Sorkin’s script. There’s a distinct, rhythmic, practically hallmarked way his dialogue rattles off the lips of the ensemble. Sure, he takes dramatic license with re-imagining what was said exactly behind closed doors, but he captures the high stakes and puts it all together in a highly charged package. Plus, fans of THE WEST WING will love that there are quite a few “walk-and-talks.”
The three act structure. While films all generally have three acts, Sorkin’s flips the script a bit, spotlighting three major events in Jobs life – the Macintosh’s launch in 1984, the NeXT launch in 1988 and the iMac launch in 1998. These are the grounds for the ensuing personal dramatics. Setting the scenes during these specific time periods isn’t as confining as it sounds. Great craft and care goes into giving them context and making sure each chapter is unique.
It’s a triumphant opera of sound and vision. For as much as this is about what’s said, Boyle gifts us with a visually arresting piece through superb subtleties. Each time period is marked with different film stock – grainy 16mm for the chapter in 1984, crisper 35mm in 1988 and (what appears to be) digital in 1998. Literally going behind the curtain to see what makes this madman tick is a brilliant construct. Where he places his hero in the frame also speaks volumes – photographing from below or even only showing one-third of him in close-up. Settings for each of the three acts augment narrative themes; a white marble hallway with stacked chairs suggests ‘the party’s over’ during Jobs’ post-Apple clash with John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). With each chapter, we see Lisa (the biological daughter whose paternity Jobs denied) coaxing out compassionate humanity, from where we first meet them in the basement, to the rafters high above the stage, to the vestibule, to the middle of the “think different” ad campaign signage, and finally outside to the rooftop. His relationship with Woz also plays out over the course of pivotal locations like behind/ around a building and in an orchestra pit. Composer Daniel Pemberton’s score also follows a natural progression – morphing from 80’s synth, to strings-based when Jobs is “conducting,” to a new-wave-rooted score when Jobs ushers in the revolutionary iMac. He even peppers in a theme to mirror the reflections in Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” a song the father-daughter discuss.
The performances. Michael Fassbender doesn’t look like the Apple figurehead and barely sounds like him. Nevertheless, the actor taps straight into what made Jobs such a complex hero. He innately brings out Jobs’ vulnerable and caustic sides, which can be, at times, simultaneous. He explores his character’s psyche in a far different way than previous films about Jobs (JOBS and Alex Gibney’s documentary STEVE JOBS: THE MAN AND THE MACHINE). Winslet wears head of marketing/ confidante/ work wife Joanna Hoffman’s strength, softness and wherewithal like a second skin, disappearing into her role. Seth Rogen, who plays Jobs’ long-suffering friend and company co-founder Steve Wozniak, brings empathy to the table. But it’s Daniels who really steals the show in his scenes with Fassbender, which are the film’s most engrossing.
STEVE JOBS opens in limited release on October 9 and everywhere on October 23.