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'Steve Jobs' review: Unconventional, entertaining, but incomplete

Caitlin McGarry | Oct. 12, 2015
The new film is a riveting look at the icon, but its narrow scope omits much of his personal and professional growth.

The dialogue-driven scenes between Jobs and the rest of the stellar cast—including Jeff Daniels as Sculley and Seth Rogen as Woz—are signature Sorkin. Here they call to mind Birdman, where the real action happens behind the scenes. There are a few tense flashbacks, like the scene where Jobs is ousted from Apple in a board vote, and those serve to break up all the walking and talking, which can get a little stale.

Michael Fassbender could have been the film’s greatest weakness, because he looks nothing like Jobs. But Fassbender manages to evoke Jobs without impersonating him. In later scenes, dressed in jeans, a black turtleneck, and white New Balance sneakers, bedecked in rimless glasses, Fassbender is almost there. But the lack of physical similarity isn’t a huge hurdle to overcome: He captures Jobs’s laser focus on detail, his passionate outbursts, and some of his wry humor.

steve jobs joanna hoffman
Kate Winslet is Joanna Hoffman, the voice of reason challenging Jobs's "reality distortion field." Credit: Universal Studios

Those close to Jobs feared this movie, based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of the late CEO, would paint Jobs as a cruel perfectionist. Those fears aren’t completely unfounded. This version of Jobs says mean things, many of which are lines quoted verbatim from Isaacson’s book. He’s vicious to ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan, who also figures prominently in the film. Like the book it was based on, Steve Jobs doesn’t attempt to excuse that behavior, though it does attempt to explain it.

People familiar with Apple will grit their teeth at some of the facts the movie gets wrong for the sake of drama. One scene in particular, where it becomes clear that Jobs had no intention of building an operating system for NeXT and built that company solely to be acquired in an elaborate plot to take over Apple, is noteworthy in how far it strays from reality.

As everyone knows, Jobs redeems himself as the leader of Apple, though the film ends in 1998, before the company is anywhere near the heights it would reach in the 21st century. He comes close to redeeming himself as a human being, telling Lisa, “I’m poorly made.” It’s not an apology, really, but what else would you expect from Steve Jobs?

Steve Jobs is now playing in New York City and Los Angeles, and opens nationwide on Oct. 23.


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