Steve Jobs. An eponymous title for a film that fits the brief more aptly than we might have assumed. This is a film about Steve Jobs the man. It explores the question of whether there is a man under the famed persona, and (if so) what kind of man that is.
Jobs’ relationship with his daughter is the fulcrum for this film: the purveyor of both his dickishness and his decency. The thematic idea of parenthood grows out of this. Jobs himself is an adopted child. In the film Apple CEO John Scully gets accused of acting as his father figure. Can we even go as far as referring to the ‘fathering’ of apple products, the abandonment of others, and delve into the significance of the missing operating system in the childhood of the ‘Next’ cube product? I think we can.
I won’t go as far as to say Fassbender’s mixed heritage is why he fits the role so well. His unconventional-ness makes him apt for just about any role. But it’s the acting that really sets him apart. As the film goes on he begins to look more and more like the real Steve Jobs, probably because he is so good at making us believe that he is. And with Kate Winslet by his side this was always going to be a coup de maître.
The relationship between the two is a strong and engaging one – her labelled as ‘the only one who can stand up to him’. She is his self-named ‘work-wife’, a formidable woman of Polish origin; that trope of ‘the woman behind the man’. Indeed this is a somewhat typified relationship. Thank god they never have sex. The whole integrity of the thing risks breaking when Jobs comments: ‘Why have we never slept together.’ But her reply: ‘Because we’re not in love,’ is both strange and triumphant, and just about lets the film away with it.
I’m not quite sure Winslet pulls off whatever accent she’s going for: it’s supposed to be some sort of eroded Polish/Russian/Armenian accent. But until Jobs’ daughter Lisa remarks on its strangeness, I hadn’t really noticed it.
The film itself is a sort of a one act wonder. The audience doesn’t get a chance to draw breath, except when we’re sucking air and breathing ‘ouch!’ and some of Jobs’ more churlish moments. It is dialogue after dialogue after dialogue, pumped forward with a musical tide that teaches us how and when to feel what. Daniel Pemberton composed the score and it seems deliberately in our face – less under the action than inside it – reinforcing the metaphor that ‘the musicians play the instruments, the conductor plays the orchestra’; a metaphor in which Jobs seems to abide.
The film is not without humour and humorous timing. There is always someone waiting outside the door, listening in, creating tension. Gadgets are made fun of, and the power of hindsight is used to good effect.
Some of these things are perhaps done too blatantly. Things happen too perfectly, metaphors fit too well. Which leaves us, as
with most biographical subjects, wondering what was real and what wasn’t.
Perhaps the most subtly treated subject is Jobs’ OCD. Never mentioned outright (I don’t think there’s anything
to confirm it in real life either), yet he doesn’t have furniture in his house, Kate Winslet’s character Joanna Hoffman’s way of riling him is messing up his documents, he is repeatedly seen placing sheets in perfect formation on the floor. All of these things understatedly explain his stubbornness, his devotion to the product’s look and feel and even the measured way in which he conducts conversations and relationships.
While there may be some tropes and some uber-obvious aspects to this film, I think it clings to all the right things: characters, relationships, angles, tension. Very much worth the watch.
Steve Jobs Official Trailer: