Movie Review: “Steve Jobs” – Mesmerizing

Written by Matt Butler November 07, 2015

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I don’t think it’s worth explaining in this review who Steve Jobs was, not because everyone everywhere knows who he was, but because I don’t think that’s who this movie is about, so to say. We’ve come to know him as a cold, demanding, perfectionist rebel, but it’s been stated repeatedly by those who knew him personally that these characteristics, in tandem with this movie, only capture a portion of his personality. So, I’ll venture to say that Steve Jobs is not about Steve Jobs, but rather the mythology of him.

Steve Jobs is a biopic that spans 16 years of Jobs’ life. It is set in the lead-ups to three key product launches hosted by Jobs, and crucial to his career. It’s before each showcase that we see him at the nexus of his business and his personal life, fighting to create revolutionary technologies while also struggling to accept that he has a daughter.

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Just like Boyle and Sorkin’s The Social Network, this is one of those ‘make it or break it’ movies, dealing with a high-profile icon in a dialogue-laden screenplay. Done wrong, it could wind up boring and insulting, but done right, it could be respectful and eye-opening. Don’t worry, it is the latter. The film’s charm comes from its dialogue, which is so expertly paced and colloquial that it radiates realism. It minimizes the declarative sentimentalities you’d expect from a biopic and focuses on the nitty gritty. At the end of each conversation, you’re left with another piece to add to the “why” of Steve Jobs; why he was the way he was, and why he pushed himself, his co-workers, friends and family beyond their limits, for better or worse.

“Musicians play their instruments, I play the orchestra”

What really sets the film apart from most biopics though is its narrative structure. Whereas the prescribed structure is a start-to-finish, life-to-death setup, this film concentrates years of conflict into its three lead-ups. It’s a behind-the-scenes setup that’s very reminiscent of Birdman, one of my all-time favourite films. Some may be turned off by this format, expecting a by-the-book, tell-all story, but my perception is that you don’t really need to show that much of Steve’s life to understand what kind of person he was, or at least how everyone else perceived him. I think by this time, anyone who walks in to this movie will already be familiar with a good chunk of the major points in Jobs’ life and personality (ie. the reality distortion field, his firing and returning to Apple, his denial of having a daughter), especially given how Jobs -more colloquially known as “The one with Ashton Kutcher”- was released only two years prior.

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Still, like most biopics, Steve Jobs is not without its exaggerations, most obviously Jobs’ personality. However, there’s a huge difference between exaggeration and overacting, and Fassbender’s performance is anything but overacted. His portrayal of Jobs may be grounded in his more aggressive eccentricities, but it is a three-dimensional build. You can see him reaching ever so subtly for the sides people rarely saw, the compassion, the vulnerability, the humanity. But its the way these sides are never fully divulged that gives weight to the mythology of Jobs, making him out as more than human.

“Doesn’t sound that diabolical to me”

Steve Jobs is an altogether compelling and thought-provoking film. There was not one performance I didn’t believe, and not one character I couldn’t sympathize with. For a film centred on someone so potentially inhumane, Steve Jobs has the most humanity of any film I’ve seen in 2015.

My Rating: 9/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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