365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

27Oct/152

Steve Jobs (2015)

The much anticipated Steve Jobs exists so much as a single entity that we may forget that the 2013 Ashton Kutcher Jobs movie ever existed. Steve Jobs has been a much bigger hit with critics (85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes verses 27% rotten) as well as with audiences (the 2015 movie earned more than half of what the 2013  movie grossed in its first week alone). While neither Kutcher nor Michael Fassbender (Shame, 12 Years a Slave) look anything like the actual former CEO of Apple, Fassbender is a much more credible dramatic actor than Kutcher ever will be. That is reason enough to give Steve Jobs the nod over Jobs if you are debating which one to watch. This will not be a comparison review between the two movies as I have not seen Kutcher's Jobs and I have no desire to see it. For whatever reason, I wasn't looking as forward to the Fassbender vehicle as I thought I would have been and it turns out that trepidation was justified. This was a very average movie that I can only recommend with the caveat that, while you might like it, you aren't going to like it as much as you were hoping to like it.

Steve Jobs was basically a two hour history lesson (and that's not necessarily a good thing). Sure it was good to see the history of Apple and the Macintosh and Jobs's involvement with each. But this movie didn't even have a pulse until the final 20 minutes when Jobs's 19-year-old daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine - Future Weather, A Summer In Genoa) showed up for the first time. Lisa was played in this movie by three different actresses (ages 5, 8, and 19), but it was the Harvard college student Haney-Jardine who helped provide the movie's most heartfelt moments. Though she only had, at most, 20 minutes of screen time, she stole the show. It is 1998 by this point and Jobs is at a conference ready to unveil his new iMac. He and Lisa aren't really talking to each other at the moment after he has said he won't pay her tuition for the semester because he didn't protest her mother's selling of their home. This seems to be a prevailing theme in this movie. which I will talk about in the following paragraphs.

I really do not like to curse in my blog, but if there was one thing that I really learned about Steve Jobs in this movie was that he was an asshole. I had no idea. While he was a philanthropic CEO by doing such things as donating machines to schools on just about every level, in his personal life he was, at least portrayed, a jerk. Though he was worth billions, he basically made Lisa's mother become a beggar. There were lots of scenes in this movie that seemed to repeat himself. Constantly we found Jobs at some sort of launch conference, in the back doing his best to prepare for a speech that he has waited until the last minute to prepare for. At these conferences (1984's Macintosh launch in 1984, Jobs's NEXT cube in 1988, and the iMac in 1998), we find Jobs acting aloof and his head of marketing and number one confidante Joanna (Kate Winslet - The Reader, Revolutionary Road) trying to get him to focus on the matter at hand. However, there is always a side situation that Jobs has to deal with involving Lisa and her mother Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston - Sleeping With Other People, The Factory). As mentioned earlier, Chrisann has almost no source of income (Jobs denied being Lisa's father for a number of years) and is basically forced to beg for money from Steve. He ends up always giving her money, but not before he lectures her and what some might consider to be a form of brain manipulation. 

Jobs was a visionary who wouldn't take no for an answer. He was never one to start a meeting late and he wasn't one for excuses. Was he an ethical man? Will this movie shows that he was willing to bend the rules a little bit if it helped his company achieve. He also wasn't one to dole out undeserved (or even deserved) compliments. Seth Rogen (Knocked Up, Take This Waltz) plays Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple II computer and the perfect antithesis to Jobs. Rogen continued to dismiss the idea that he's a one trick pony and can only be limited to raunchy rom-coms. As he half-heartedly joked in a recent interview when he pleaded to directors that he "won't ruin their dramas", he's done nothing to suggest otherwise. Just because he is a super talented comedian doesn't mean he can't pull off dramas. He's following the mold set by Jonah Hill who has earned multiple Best Supporting Actor nominations for the biopics Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street. In any case, Wozniak is constantly trying to get Steve to do the right thing (much like Joanna). But Jobs was never really a man who listened to the voice of one person. For better or for worse, he listened to the masses. When Wozniak encourages over and over for Steve to recognize the Apple II team for all of their hard work because it's the right thing to do, he steadfastly refuses. He's an arrogant man who sees things as black or white (or better as binary...either one or off). There was very little grey it Jobs's life.

Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) is a masterful director. In each of the two mentioned movies, he did an incredible job of interweaving scenes from the protagonist's past into the present story line. This resulted in an enhanced movie experience for each film. Boyle received multiple Academy Award nominations for each of these films and took home the best hardware in the business (Best Director, Best Picture) for Slumdog Millionaire. The same approach with Steve Jobs didn't work. Honestly, there was too much material to present. There are multiple scenes were there is a present conversation going on between Jobs and one of the supporting actors (for example John Sculley [Jeff Daniels - The Lookout, The Squid and the Whale], CEO of Apple from 1983-1993) while going back and forth with a flashback between these two characters. In my opinion, it was uneven and even a little sloppy. This was a much more difficult movie to adapt a screenplay for as well as edit and while Boyle didn't fail, he didn't knock his flashback scenes out of the park like he did with both Slumdog Millionaire (my #2 movie of 2008) and 127 Hours (my #6 movie of 2010 - the best year for movies in any year of my life). Likewise, Boyle does a great job with incorporating the score into his movies and while the background music really did enhance the scenes of Steve Jobs, again there was just no comparison when you lined up the score against the other two movies. (In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm strongly recommending Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours over Steve Jobs.

In many ways, Steve Jobs felt like a two hour documentary you might find on the The History Channel. I never felt like there was a team were I was rooting for him. Each time I wanted to like him, he gave me a reason to like him even less. While the acting was good and at times very good, this was a drama without much drama. In many ways earned a much higher score than it otherwise would of because of the last 20 minutes. Haney-Jardine's Lisa was the only person who was able to humanize Jobs and put him in his place. And we might not have even gotten that if she wasn't so convincing as his often dismissed daughter who never could seem to do anything right (or at least could never really do anything right and get recognition from her father for it). But in a way, it was too little too late. I appreciated the scene, but Jobs still held back and the reconciliation was sort of replaced with reaching a middle ground. But of all of the people in his life who affected for better or for worse, the only one who made an impression on him was his daughter. This part of the movie was important and I wish I could score the final 20 minutes an A, but I could only give it a B+ at best because there was still too much that was held back (and I think that had less to do with Fassbender and/or Boyle and more just because that was who Jobs was).

In terms of an entertaining biopic, there are hundreds out there that feel less like a documentary. With that said, if the life of Steve Jobs is of interest to you or if you are a fan of Apple, I think this movie could be worth a watch. It definitely does not need to be seen on the big screen and, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, even if you do see it and you do like it, I don't think you'll like it as much as you were hoping to.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 7/10 (Outside of Haney-Jardine, there was very little growth of the characters and the growth that we were supposed to feel felt forced...I would have expected more growth in a 15 year period)
Character Chemistry 7.5/10 (Fassbender and Rogen were great together...the same couldn't really be said about the time Fassbender and Winselt were together)
Acting 8/10 (as mentioned, there were some solid performances from Fassbender, Rogen, Winslet, and Daniels)
Screenplay 7/10
Directing  7/10 (very uneven which is ironic because I thought two of Boyle's most recent films (Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) were two of the best directed movies of this century)
Cinematography 9/10 (Most of the movie takes place in the 1980's and the scenes certainly represent that. The last third takes place in 1998 and the only aspects that really changed to me were Fassbender's clothes and Winslet's hairstyle)
Sound 8.5/10 (background music throughout just above every major scene...it added to the movie rather than detracted from it. I could only imagine how some of these scenes might have played out without the music)
Hook and Reel 7/10 (for perhaps the most innovative company of the last quarter century, you would have thought this movie could have been more entertaining)
Universal Relevance 10/10
80%  

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  1. It’s taken me a while to get around to writing my thoughts on this movie in response to your review…I must say, that in reading the review, I expected a 6/10, and was surprised by the final score that you gave it.

    Yes, there were some big faults in the film, but most of the ones that have been commonly referenced, I think are misunderstood. For example, the setting of the movie (taking place almost entirely during pre-announcement preparation) was a really smart vehicle to have the conversations. Without it, taking the time to show how Steve Jobs worked, thought, and treated people could have been an entire other (and more boring) movie. Surely those conversations didn’t happen in real life in that way – or at the very least, not all of them did. However, the film used that setting as an excellent way of tying together the Steve Jobs character storyline and the progression of the company without making it cumbersome.

    Speaking of cumbersome, I felt that the father-daughter theme was actually the least interesting storyline in the movie. Perhaps because it was completely obvious at every turn, or perhaps because I was more intrigued by the relationships with his co-workers; but it just didn’t add a lot to the movie. Of all parts of the movie, it was the one that felt most forced.

    I am a big fan of Danny Boyle, and less of a fan of Aaron Sorkin, but I thought that they both did a good job on this one. They took a story that in pop-culture seemed interesting, but actually wasn’t as inviting as everyone thought it would be, and turned it into a possible award winning movie. There is a reason that others have failed at making the movie prior…an asshole boss/person running a successful company (unfortunately because it’s ubiquitous) isn’t that engaging.

    Finally, the score and soundtrack were outstanding. I walked out of the theater and immediately made a note to download the music – which is a very rare occurrence, especially for a score.

    9/10

    • As always, I love and appreciate the comment. In regards to the score, I have realized that criteria doesn’t always line up with my overall feelings of a movie. I have thought removing the categories entirely, but then realized that that is what separates my reviews from others. I have looked at my numbers and, yes, based on what I actually wrote, the score should add up closer to a 70-75 range. I definitely agree with you about Boyle and Sorkin. I hadn’t considered the second paragraph of your reply, but now that I think about it, I agree with you on that.

      My feelings of the movie haven’t changed, but I will say that the movie has stuck with me more than some other movies that I gave better reviews for. Part of that is because Apple is a huge part of my life and it is probably the greatest run company in this country (though I have some problems with them changing certain things just to get people to have to buy more…like why is there a need to keep changing port sizes? Now I need to get an adapter to be able to play my new phone on my surround speakers). But I remember a lot of details about this movie that I would normally not remember. The score was great. I do not think it will win any awards this season. I think it will get a couple of nominations including Fassbender (who I love as an actor) in the weakest Best Actor field in years. This could bode well for my boy Leo especially considering the fact that The Danish Girl is getting mixed reviews and Redmayne seems to be his only competition. I actually hope Fassbender does get a nomination.

      Thanks again for the read and reply!


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