Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Steve Jobs: DVD Review

Steve Jobs: DVD Review

Rating: M
Released by Universal Home Ent

There's just something about Steve Jobs that continues to fascinate.

Books and an Ashton Kutcher movie and a planned Alex Gibney doco, the well is yet to dry up.

127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire Director Danny Boyle is the latest to fall under his thrall in the slightly unusual bio-pic about the man, based on Walter Isaacson's biography.

Centring around three product launches in Jobs' life the film throws as much personal drama backstage as the kitchen sink will allow.

Beginning in 1984 with the Apple Macintosh's launch, then spiralling to 1988's ill-fated NeXT computer launch and ending up in 1998's unveiling of the iMac, it centres more around the arrogance of Steve Jobs and his treatment of those around him in what is essentially a three-act play with as much hubris as you'd expect from a Shakespeare play.

With a terrific score from Daniel Pemberton, this essentially stage set piece works very well for its first 2 sections before tying everything up neatly in a syrupy sentimental bow that appears to betray everything which went before. 

When it boils down to it, Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs is more about the pivotal relationship between Jobs and his daughter Lisa through the launches and very little else. Sure, other dramas such as Voice demos failing and Wozniak's quest for recognition for the Apple 2 team come and go but they all swirl around the vortex at the centre of Jobs' life.

Fassbender's never anything short of commanding as Jobs

He makes sure that the arrogance and seething inability to act like a human are front and centre of this portrayal. There's never anything less than an unlikeable man on the screen - and despite Rogen's humanising Wozniak trying to get him to see the bigger picture and focus on the people, Fassbender's Jobs is an aloof dictator, caught up in his own delusions of grandeur and single-mindedly determined to get to his destination or ensure his machinations are personally successful. 

Which is potentially why the third act's resolution during the iMac launch jars so badly as it races to ensure a happier ending - bizarrely, his arc is never earned and despite the performance of all involved, never one that calls for cinematic closure. (One of Steve Jobs' more pressing problems is the fact the film feels cold and emotionally aloof).

Winslet's empathetic as Joanna, his much-maligned work wife and effective spin doctor; Daniels is nothing more than an impressive analyst of Jobs' behaviour as the CEO of Apple John Sculley who appears from time to time and Rogen throws some dramatic weight behind Wozniak and gets to the nub of the apparent love and daily frustration with the man (in fact, it's never looked like a truer fraternal relationship than on this screen).

While Sorkin's trademark dialogue is in place (and lots of walking and talking), it never feels as fully accomplished as perhaps it might and if anything, suffers from an over-polish and the fact situations have to manifest themselves at the most inopportune moments. This is not always a film that feels like anything more than a hyper-real collision of coincidence, a coming together of events for dramatic gain rather than naturalistic purposes.

And yet, there are moments when the human condition comes to the fore and events play out in those traditional Sorkin tropes - a major downfall of a character is choreographed to soaring scores and constant rain; it's unmistakably and undeniably a Sorkin joint from beginning to end. (And having written Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network, his second look at a major character from the zeitgeist).

As Jobs himself remarks, "I play the orchestra" and it's a role that Danny Boyle fulfills admirably as the director in this movie. Events naturally build to a crescendo of chaos, a whirlwind of melodrama and a discourse of dialogue, but Boyle elegantly manipulates them all into place to ensure the biopic is elevated from the usual fare.

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