Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle's "Steve Jobs" is rolling out to theaters now, but if you're planning on seeing a documentary about the life of Apple's co-founder, think again. The movie is a drama inspired by events in Steve Jobs's life and you're either going to love it or hate it.
Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs
First, let's get the elephant in the room out of the way: Michael Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs and no, he doesn't look like the man who gave us the reality distortion field, iMac, and iPhone. That doesn't matter because Mr. Fassbender becomes the Steve Jobs in Mr. Sorkin's tale and he owns the part.
Some people are getting hung up on how Mr. Fassbender looks instead of the role he's playing. If you want a movie that gives you visual facsimile of Steve Jobs watch Ashton Kutcher's portrayal in "Jobs." He does a remarkable job of looking like the man, but the trade off is that he's in a movie that feels more like cosplay with skits strung together showing the obligatory mythos of the rise of Apple.
What this Steve Jobs gives us is a journey through the inner turmoil of a man trying to bring his vision to life and come to terms with his personal demons, including the fact that he has a daughter he refuses to accept.
Steve Jobs is split into three acts that take place just before the launch of the Mac in 1984, the NeXT Cube in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. Each vignette throws Jobs in the middle of turmoil as he squares off with Chrisann (Katherine Waterson), the mother of his daughter Lisa, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and other people who follow along in his rollercoaster life.
The interactions with his daughter Lisa are poignant, but the powerhouse moments in each scene come from the dialog between Jobs and John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). The energy between the two is palpable, Fassbender and Daniels play off each other perfectly, and they way they deliver Aaron Sorkin's lines is like an amazingly choreographed dance.
The real Steve Jobs and John Sculley never had those conversations. In fact, they never spoke again after Jobs was essentially run out of the company. That doesn't matter because the scenes they share together are amazing, and it's about conveying the feeling of Steve Jobs's, not creating a minute-by-minute diary of his life.
Seth Rogan plays a lovable Steve Wozniak who confronts Jobs in ways the real man never would've done. The Woz character he plays, however, projects the emotions so many people were feeling at the time. He's so lovable that it hurts when we see Jobs callously playing Woz in a scene where he asks about his Nixie tube wristwatch.
Instead of writing Joanna Hoffman's character as a girl Friday, Sorkin showed her as the conscience Jobs didn't have. She's strong and compassionate, and totally believable when she goes toe to toe with Jobs.
Setting up Jobs's confrontations before major product launch events is an easy plot mechanism: it creates a sense of urgency because there's a clear deadline, and the emotional tension is already high. Sorkin even acknowledges that through Jobs's character, and yet it all works. It's like a well oiled machine churning out frustration, anger, hate, and love.
And that's the crux of Sorkin's "Steve Jobs." It's all about emotional accuracy and not true historical events. It's about how it felt to be around Steve Jobs in 1980s and 90s, and it's about the personal growth and struggle of a man who also happens to be named Steve Jobs working at a company called Apple.
If you're ready for a dramatic tale spun from moments in Steve Jobs's life, then get in line for Sorkin's movie right now. If you're looking for a big screen depiction of Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography, however, sit this one out. You'll only be disappointed and frustrated watching events that never happened in a story that plays fast and loose with historical accuracy.