Steve Jobs (2015)
Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg
Director of Photography: Alwin H. Küchler
Music by Daniel Pemberton
Edited by Elliot Graham
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Danny Boyle
Rating: 9 out of 10
Steve Jobs is an excellent movie in every aspect. Its grounded in the clever screenplay by Aaron Sorkin who chooses an unusual structure and pulls it off better than anyone could have imagined. The other foundation of the movie’s success is Michael Fassbender in the title role. Fassbender is always brilliant but here he shows some facets I hadn’t seen before from him. Kate Winslet is amazing too in an interesting role. Danny Boyle’s direction also helps to keep the film entertaining, with unusual camera angles, different film stock and a fascinating color scheme. The movie is not realistic or authentic, but one of its charms is that it is fully aware of that and never claims to be. It breaks a lot of rules that normal Hollywood movies tend to follow and proves that sometimes that’s the right way to go. I mean, I’m not a big Apple fan (to put it mildly) and I have a hard time admiring Steve Jobs, but none of this stopped me from enjoying the movie so much, which proves how successful it is in telling a compelling, intelligent story.
One thematic element that interested me the most and that fits to my general discussions on this blog is Jobs’ (the movie character) development from detached to emphatic. In the beginning he is cold, unlikable, overly ambitious, mean. While most people around him are turned off by his demeanor, it is also clear that these abilities are what make him successful in our society. No one expects him to become ‘softer’ because it’d would make him a better CEO, it is understood that not despite but because of his quirks since they are so specific to our culture’s demands. Don’t care about other people, only focus on getting the product done and present it convincingly to sell it. That part of Jobs doesn’t change so much over the course of the movie because even in the final 1998 section, we see that everything is about the presentation, about the cult of the product, about the idea of selling it as an artform. I’m not sure how critical the movie is of that as it at times seems to distance itself from it, but in the end seems incapable of resisting the temptation for too long, which is the one thing that bothered me about the movie.
What does change is Jobs’ relationship to his daughter Lisa and this aspect worked very well for me. At first Jobs treats her like an object, talking about her while she is in the room, denying his fatherhood and suppressing his emotions. He acts like a machine towards her, but through “his” machine she kindles some kind of spark within him, when she creates something artistic with it. When we see them again in 1988, he is warmer to her, but still acts like this alien that doesn’t know how human emotions work, asking others for help. Look at his reaction when she hugs him and whispers her heartbreaking line to him. The wheels and cogs move inside of him, he is almost stunned by the emotions he feels as if he didn’t know he possessed them. In 1998 he embraces these emotions more, but it takes until the very end until he really accepts them. Note that he (and the movie) still avoid the typical gestures you’d expect. There is no big hug, no “I love you.” It’s all there, but unspoken. It is a testament to Michael Fassbender’s incredible talent that we realize all of this through his facial expressions (although the similarities to his character in Prometheus are more than fascinating).
Ultimately, the movie here deals with ideas of parenthood and identity without ever making it too explicit. Jobs, this detached creature from the beginning, lacks a direct connection to his birth parents and therefore turns out to be as removed from his emotions as he was from being someone’s biological son. But by becoming an emotional father to his separated daughter, he is able to accept himself despite the neglect he grew up with. In the end, he is still not able to use his complete emotional spectrum, but it is enough to give something back to his daughter.
Finally, look at the final scene that reminded me of the phenomenon I noticed in Southpaw and On Golden Pond. Here too we have an unsympathetic main male character who has issues with his daughter who blames him for not being loved enough. But while the other movies basically neglect the daughter too because they want to celebrate the male hero for his change, pushing the kids to the sideline, there is a difference here. Yes, Lisa also stands in the sideline at the end while her father is celebrated by the audience but all he does is looking at her, making it clear that she is more important to him now. It is not an incredible difference, but a significant one and a great way to end the film.