Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 1426 - Steve Jobs

If I ever need to wash the abomination that is Prometheus out of my brain, all I need to do is watch Michael Fassbender kill it as the title character in Steve Jobs.

I tell people all the time that computers are "magic."  I have no idea how they work.  I press the power button and it turns on, and I close it up and it turns off.  There's a scene in the movie where Steve is practicing a speech, and he's describing the things that the computer will do.  It seems that Steve is like me as far as how the computer works.  But where he's different is where he absolutely knows what he wants that thing to do, and he has the people who can do it.

Steve Jobs is not a nice guy.  He's arrogant, selfish, mean, vengeful, and absolutely refuses to acknowledge the fact that he's the father to a girl who most obviously is.  But he's also smart, canny, and captivating.  What you see is a complete person.  He may not be likable, but in order for him to do what he did, I'm not sure likabilty was necessary.

The movie unfolds by showing us Steve right before a product launch.  First in 1984, right after the ground-breaking Super Bowl commercial with the release of the Mac.  Fast forward four years, and the Mac has failed, Steve's been fired, and now he's spearheading the release of the Next.  Fast forward again, and we're right there with the unveiling of the iMac.  Each release has Steve and his assistant, Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet, who so buries herself in the role, that it took me about 15 minutes to realize it was her) dealing with time issues, computer issues, family issues, friend issues, reporter issues, and life issues. And it's all done at a breakneck pace due to Aaron Sorkin's script.

When referencing "The West Wing" most people talk about the "walking and talking" that goes on throughout each episode.  Steve Jobs seems to do that times a thousand.  And if the characters aren't walking, they are at least talking.  There's no rest.  No respite.  We know what we need to know through what the characters say.  And they say a lot.  And maybe the best thing about Danny Boyle's direction is his ability to keep us visually focused on what the characters' reactions are to what's being said.  When Steve is being insensitive (most of the time), we know exactly what the other characters are thinking, simply by watching them react.

But what the movie is really about, is how Steve Jobs is able to create an empire almost through sheer strength of will, yet is unable to emotionally open himself up to the fact that, yes, he really has a daughter.  He can do nothing other than throw money at what he sees as a problem.  He likes Lisa, his daughter, but he's so emotionally self-centered that he can't cope with her on any more than a superficial level. He's a genius who can't understand humanity.  He makes a number of references that people don't know what they want until he gives it to them.  He burns bridges left and right.  But it's not done out of malice (usually).  He just doesn't know  boundaries.

It's a fascinating character study.  It has more dialogue than probably three movies put together, and it's anchored by a fantastic cast.  Jeff Daniels has never been better.  Seth Rogen must be thanking the acting gods for his part as Steve Wozniak, because he kills it.  You honestly just keep waiting to see if Steve Jobs becomes a better person, and like the best thrillers, you have to wait for the final scene.

****  (and I give it four stars not merely because it's great, but because the scene between Fassbender's Jobs and Jeff Daniels' John Sculley is one of the best edited and acted sequences I've seen in years.)

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