There was effusive praise for Universal‘s Steve Jobs last night, with major Oscar talk laid out for its star Michael Fassbender but not all notices were glowing. For every kudos there were citations of “it was great until the last 10 minutes” (which was also a complaint at test screenings) and that Aaron Sorkin’s walk-and-talk formula became a bit tiresome. Curiously, at the last minute it was reported that the Steve Jobs that was screened at Telluride was still a “work in progress” so you can bet director Danny Boyle and Universal’s suits are combing over tweets and reviews to tighten up their Oscar contender. One thing is clear; Michael Fassbender overcomes early concern of his lack of physical resemblance to Jobs by embodying the man via the myth.
Much of the commentary mentions the inevitable comparison to David Fincher’s The Social Network, also written by Sorkin (who won an Oscar for his screenplay) and it’s understandable; the project, originally based at Sony, was intended to be a Fincher film with Christian Bale in the lead. After months of contract disputes both left the project and it was scooped up by Universal.
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]Boyle is strong on humanity in his work, which helps explain why this telling of Jobs life is rooted so deeply in the women he’s surrounded himself with – chief among them, Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, who was key in helping Jobs hold his business together. She is more here – work wife, mother figure, teacher. Winslet has one of the film’s best scenes where she can’t watch this man mistreat his daughter for one more minute. “Either fix it,” she says, “or I’ll go work … “anywhere I want.”[/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]Racing in high gear from start to finish, Danny Boyle’s electric direction temperamentally complements Sorkin’s highly theatrical three-act study, which might one day be fascinating to experience in a staged setting. As he has repeatedly shown in the past, Sorkin has a gift for writing the elevated gab of brainiacs, which has made him an ideal chronicler of such modern-age titans as Mark Zuckerberg and now Jobs. That said, The Social Network and Steve Jobs are radically different in their approaches to drama and character. But whereas David Fincher’s direction of the former provided an incisive, and often quite funny, sense of cool to the former, Boyle’s fast-heartbeat pacing and quasi-verite style provides the new film with a constant dramatic hum and you-are-there immediacy. [/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]A kind of “Birdman” for the tech sector, “Steve Jobs” follows its subject around backstage environments in the frenetic moments leading up to a series of highly publicized presentations. While at times too over-the-top and operatic for its own good, those same flawed ingredients echo the rough edges that define the movie’s iconic subject. [/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]This is one of those films that is nearly impossible to take in on one showing, folks. The movie is loaded front to back with incredible line after incredible line, but it all flies at you so fast that I believe the film will play better upon second and third showings – as great films often do.[/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]…his is a film of brash, swaggering artifice and monumental ego, a terrific actors’ showcase and an incorrigibly entertaining ride that looks set to be one of the fall’s early must-see attractions. …those viewers who thought “The Social Network” was a bit too show-offy will find this even more brazenly written picture truly insufferable by comparison. The virtues of Sorkin’s style are as self-evident as the vices; his work here is by turns ferociously inventive and cloddishly on-the-nose — a high-wire achievement that’s easy to admire even when it’s nearly impossible to like. [/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]Beyond Fassbender’s impressive performance the movie is assisted by a universally brilliant supporting cast. Winslet gives one of the best performances of her career providing Hoffman with a gravitas that isn’t always in the script. Rogen does more for Wozniak’s legacy with his performance in this one film than any of the computer pioneer’s recent public interviews ever have. Daniels makes you root for Sculley even though he’s supposedly to blame for the dismal Apple Newton (it should be noted the movie depicts Sculley’s run as CEO as a complete disaster which simply isn’t the case). Stuhlbarg is absolutely fantastic as the one Apple employee Jobs has hurt the most, but who continues to look out for him. Waterston beautifully conveys the humiliation Chrisann feels after Jobs insists Lisa isn’t his daughter in TIME magazine of all places.[/box]