CinePile: Steve Jobs
A movie as tightly controlled as the world of Jobs.
This is the greatest movie of all time. Cameron (Nicholas Cage) is a straight up badass police guy who did his time the right way for accidentally murdering some dudes that were messing with his wife. Next thing you know he’s out of jail stuck ON A PLANE with this real sinister Cyrus (John Malkovich) bloke that makes Hannibal look like Jeff from the Wiggles. Chuck in a Boeing 747 and a drizzle a bit of John Cusack on top and you have yourself some cinematic perfection my friend.
Okay, so that was actually a review of 1997’s blockbuster Con Air and not the movie in question, which is Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs, but still… Con Air's a 10/10 movie that you should all go see. While an extensive knowledge of Con Air doesn’t make me any kind of a pro in the movie critic stakes, I reckon I’ve read, seen or listened to nearly every piece of media about Jobsy, so thought I’d take a crack at this one.
I doubt there’s many of you out there in IRL-land that don’t know who Steve Jobs is. But just in case you’ve been holidaying in North Korea for the last 20-odd years, here’s a brief run down; Jobs was an orphan who grew up in San Francisco in the 70s just when computers started to become a thing. Basically everyone at the time was smoking weed, taking acid doing the free-love thing but Jobs was taking acid and making computers. Yes, he’s a nerd. When he was 21, he co-founded Apple Computers with his friend Steve Wozniak in his California garage.
Above: Fass doing Steve back in his free-wheelin' lumberjack days.
After that, Jobs took it pretty chill - basically just pioneering the personal computer and turning Apple Computers into a $1.2 billion public company. A company that the Apple board then ousted him from (because they were sick of his shit) and turned over to John Sculley, who Jobs himself had hired to be Apple’s CEO. Steve was (obviously) real angry about it. He channeled his energy into creating the world’s biggest animation studio, Pixar, while he waited for Sculley to run Apple into the ground, then made a triumphant comeback to Apple with the launch of the iMac. From there it was hit after hit - the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Macbook and basically every other bit of technology that you hold dear. By the time he died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, he was already a living icon of our generation.
Above: Full jerk mode: engaged.
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting)'s Steve Jobs is the latest in a long string of movies, documentaries, biographies and interpretive dances about the man behind the turtleneck. This is a very different film to the festering shitpot known as Jobs (2013) starring the oh-so-talented Ashton Kutcher (that said, if you’re looking for a nice, easy to watch Netflix and chill-er, with lots of pretty people frolicking around on acid, then by all means, chuck that puppy on and bask in your unintelligence). Boyle's offering to the Jobs cultural ouevre is not overly exciting - it all looks the same, the actors (particular Michael Fassbender in the title role) do a great job with what they’ve got to work with but it’s very... meh.
Steve Jobs dispenses with the traditional format of the biopic. The narrative of the film structures itself in three sections, each covering the time immediately preceding the build-up to one of Jobs’ infamous product launches. During these scenes, which mostly take place in the backstage areas of the conference venues, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Netowrk) works in as much dramatic dialogue as possible to show Jobs’ strained relationships with nearly everyone in his life.
Above: Anyone else getting The West Wing flashbacks?
These include the father-son relationship with Apple CEO Scully (Jeff Daniels), the brother/longtime friend relationship with Apple co-founder Wozniak (Seth Rogen), the only female relationship with his Head of Marketing Joanna (Kate Winslet) and the very strange relationship with his daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine) whom Jobs didn’t acknowledge as his legitimate child until she was 15 years old. Spoiler alert – he treats them all like shit.
Above: Not being a #1 Dad.
While building the film entirely on conversations/character studies is an interesting narrative technique that works well say, live in theatrical environments, it makes for boring as fuck cinematic viewing - there are only so many empty auditorium shots with classical music playing in the background one person can take before strangling themselves with an (always-too-short) iPhone cable.
Above: Kate Winslet most likely lecturing Steve on "managing expectations".
Even though I’ve just rained shit on this movie, it is definitely worth watching if you’re an avid fan/follower/critic of the late Steve Jobs. What the movie does do well is give an insight into the dark side of the tech messiah, an insight that was only partially touched upon in the official biography, even. As a uni dropout in my mid-twenties that has avoided getting a ‘real job’ at all costs over the last six years, I’ve studied a fair amount on these types of figures with stars in my eyes and dreams of flying in private jets full of Victoria Secret models while casually making a ‘dent in the universe’.
However, these figures - the disrupters, world changers, visionaries, entrepreneurs… all seem to display similar character flaws once you’ve scratched beneath the surface. Dazzling success seems to come with a price tag – loneliness. Although he changed the world, Jobs died a lonely man having sacrificed real relationships with friends and family for his all-consuming obsession with control and perfection. He endeavoured to control all aspects of his life: End-to-end control of the user with all his products, control of his life with his intense dieting and lifestyle, control of those around him (including the people he worked with - he became known for being able to convince anyone to do anything, creating a ‘reality distortion field’ wherein people could achieve things that seemed impossible).
The really interesting thing about this movie is that it shows many parts of Jobs’ life that he couldn’t control - mainly his relationships with other people, and how he deals with that. Whenever faced with a situation he can’t control, he ignores the individuals involved, and instead points his laser focus onto delivering perfection in his products, and was able to achieve more in the area of innovation that just about everyone in human history.
Above: Steve? More like Scott...no friends.
Steve Jobs was good, but not great (if you want great, you’re going to need to go watch Nic Cage take on the world with his bare hands and a white singlet in Con Air). However, the fact that the film wasn’t perfect is almost a testament to its subject. Jobs may have changed the world for the better but he certainly never won any 'Dad of the Year' awards. Jobs reveals the sad home truth of the Apple founder’s genius; showing the audience that the huge contribution Jobs made to greater humanity came at a cost - his own ability to be human.
Steve Jobs hits Australian cinemas on February 4. Your friend probably has an ex-rental copy of Con Air you can borrow. Or failing that, it often makes 'movie of the week' on free-to-air TV.