I begrudgingly watched another Steve Jobs film. Seriously, was there more information to be covered, some new angle to be unveiled? As a matter of fact, there was. Thanks to Danny Boyle’s (Sunshine, 127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) direction and Michael Fassbender’s nuanced performance, Steve Jobs is a worthy Academy Award nominee with Fassbender’s portrayal of Jobs at its center.
While the special features look into the making of this particular film with commentary, fans of Jobs probably already unpacked Walter Isaacson’s biography of the man. But this is an Aaron Sorkin script, so you can be prepared for witty, moral, and emotional, right? The writer who pulled off West Wing and half a dozen political explorations cinematically knows how to balance the internal and external, the emotional and the conversational.
While much of the film is about Apple and its projects, the dynamic between Jobs, his ex-girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), and their daughter humanizes the man who pursued excellence in technology and business. He softens to others when he opens his heart to Lisa; his flaws as a human being are on display even while whole populations adore his every futuristic announcement about the way some new gadget works. But, wow, those flaws are worn like badges of honor!
Jobs’ antagonistic friendship with Wozniak, Sculley, and even Hoffman, make for some tense conversations. Additionally, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), draws some fire for his technology and his affection for Lisa and Chrisann. But the way that Jobs is portrayed shows us the friction even in friendship that drove him to excellence and creativity. Wozniak is the one who pushes Jobs to be a human being and excellent; Jobs thinks he must choose one over the other.
To avoid any confusion here, Sorkin’s script is clever and fast-moving in ways that other features about Jobs have not been. There’s a refrain that is hilarious about the two “Andys,” Hertzfeld and launch manager Andrea “Andy” Cunningham (Sarah Snook), which also shows us how manipulating Jobs could be: he thinks one of them should change their name to be less confusing. There’s genius in the way that we are provided so much background and depth in the conversations that are on such a limited stage: we never see Jobs leave the building but it’s incredibly engaging!
The fact is that Jobs thought he was a conductor. He wasn’t the best at code or technology, but he could see the big picture. He couldn’t manage day-to-day moments but he could see the arc. He knew how to put it together in a way that literally changed the world. He was visionary, even while he couldn’t be a compassionate human being.
That brings us back to the fundamental question: can one be driven and good? Can someone pursue excellence and still be relational? So often, those we praise for their dominance are so broken, as Jobs was. At the end of the day, do we believe we can strive higher without burning bridges as we go?
When we consider Jobs’ life and brokenness, it leaves much to be desired. When it comes to Fassbender’s performance, the end result should be Best.