Danny Boyle directs and Aaron Sorkin writes this biopic of the pioneering businessman. They focus entirely on the hour or so before three of the most important keynotes in his life. Michael Fassbender stars in the title role.
This director-writer-actor combo should be a match made in heaven but for whatever reason Boyle decides to take a back seat and let Sorkin’s screenplay take centre stage.
It’s satisfyingly structured; Jobs meets the same people before every keynote so we get to check in with them at various points throughout his life. However it lacks warmth and a human touch. Life just isn’t structured this way, and this level of artifice feels odd in a biographical work. Things are as they are because it’s smart and suits Sorkin’s writing, not because it helps us understand the truth or get a sense of character in a limited time frame.
The supporting performances are all worth a mention. Kate Winslet stands out as Jobs’ confidante Joanna Hoffman, Michael Stuhlbarg is uncannily similar to chief engineer Andy Hertzfelt and even Seth Rogen is charming as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. They are all puppets in Sorkin’s screenplay, but it works.
However what benefits the support cast hurts the lead role. Fassbender struggles to rise above the snappy chit-chat and carve a real person out of the character. He’s a talented actor but ironically he doesn’t get a very interesting job to do. This is probably where Boyle needed to put his foot down more - Fassbender an iMac being used for Solitaire.
The Social Network is also a Sorkin film about technology. However, in that case Fincher succeeded where Boyle fails and made a gripping drama. Steve Jobs has a great premise and a great screenplay, but stands as proof that one cannot live on writing alone.