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Categories: Movie Reviews

The fantastic writing saves it but the acting doesn’t live up to the cast’s potential.

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Hats off to Arron Sorkin; Steve Jobs is not what anyone expected. The possibility of it opening with a small boy tinkering with electronics, flashing forward to innovative school-time hijinks and meeting all the main players of what was to become Apple along the way was unsettling.     

Fortunately, Sorkin and director Danny Boyle have mercifully broken the mould of the biopic. The film is split into three neat acts. Three different days at completely different times in the businessman’s life. The only connection is that each takes place in the hours preceding one of Jobs’ famous product launches.    

During these events, punctuated somewhat awkwardly with flashbacks, we get subtle glimpses into Jobs’ personal life while he throttles his professional one.

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In 1984, the world is introduced to the Macintosh. In 1985, having been betrayed by Apple, the doomed NeXT system is being released. By 1998, he is back at Mac exhibiting their next game changer, the iMac.

We get constant updates about his personal and technical life during these events. His spurned ex (Katherine Waterston) and five-year-old daughter (Mackenzie Moss) hover eternally in the background of the events. The audience will go somewhat cold towards Jobs when he begins to explain his algorithm testifying that there is a 23% chance that the girl is not his. There is some redemption later when he promises her “I’m going to put 500 tunes in your pocket.”

It is the Jobs in everyone’s mind, however. His unrealistic demands, contradictory instructions, sociopathic cruelty, ostensible genius and manipulative charm – bordering on that of a cult leader – are all there.     
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It’s not director Danny Boyle’s usual bag, but the quick dialogue mixed with the fluid cinematography moving seamlessly around the backstage of theatres come together to express the quick-paced, almost manic, anxiety-ridden stream of consciousness that we all associate with the top echelons of the business and what we know, or suspect, about Steve Jobs. 

Michael Fassbender was criticised when he first accepted the part for not looking enough like Steve Jobs. Far more unforgivable is that apart from putting on an American accent, he doesn’t sound anything like him. Even the accent becomes weak in places, giving way to an Irish twang, often heard in the X-Men films, as well. We can’t help but wonder what could have been had Christian Bale taken the role on. He bowed out in November 2014, not believing himself to be right for the part.      

Kate Winslet’s accent changes entirely halfway through the movie from American at the start to the Polish one of Job’s marketing guru, Joanna Hoffman. It is unclear from the film if this was this something that happened to Hoffman in real life between 1984 and ‘88 or if it was just a slip of Winslet’s vocal cords.

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Meanwhile, apart from toning down his usual humour, Seth Rogen just plays Seth Rogen. Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Steve Wozniak will be uninspired by this portrayal of him. The script comes to the rescue and the whole character is summed up in the line “I’m tired of playing Ringo when I know I’m John.”   

The performances are good but they don’t live up to the standard we have come to expect from this pedigree. Jeff Daniels is steady as John Sculley, the Apple CEO and architect of Jobs’ dismissal from Apple. He does seem to have decided how he acts Sorkin dialogue and may as well have been playing Will McAvoy from The Newsroom. It fits, but it’s very transparent. This father type figure is a useful device when dissecting the titular character’s motivations and rationalisations producing the telling musing “why do people like you, who were adopted, feel rejected instead of selected?”  It’s at points like this that we being to question how firm the fact is on which this film is based. People don’t really talk like that, but cinematically it is very effective. 

Although it is masterfully written and ably directed, the acting often lets this one down, Oscar nods notwithstanding. Steve Jobs is an entertaining watch, but all things considered, not quite as user-friendly as we would have hoped.   

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Posted on Feb 29, 2016

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