The latest guest review comes from Jacob Oller from “Should I Watch?” reviews. He is a Oklahoma City film critic and writer. Find more of his work at http://www.shouldiwatchreviews.com, IonOk.com/eye-movies, or follow him @Jacoboller
Steve Jobs probably would’ve liked Steve Jobs. Or, at least the version played by Michael Fassbender would, anyways. He wouldn’t get caught up in the minutiae, the limp supporting characters, the flashy-yet-intangible plotting, or the repetitively uninventive walk-and-talk format of the film. He’d probably count them among its assets. These qualities, familiar to anyone who’s seen screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s work before, do incentivise us to pay the most attention to the titular billionaire, after all. But that doesn’t make for a good movie.
Sorkin is known for his acidic pen, nimbly juxtaposing machine-gun egomania with the kind of throwaway cruelty that steadily ruins your whole day, like a pointer finger papercut. He brought the infamous two-characters-walking-through-a-hallway scene to the world with his shows Sports Night and The West Wing while providing another misanthropic tech guru with a voice by writing Mark Zuckerberg to the screen in The Social Network. For better or for worse, not much has changed.
Well, that’s not exactly true. The Social Network reigns its script in with its tense bitterness and crumbling relationships told as much visually as verbally. The change of directors has not been kind. Director Danny Boyle is at his least influential here until the warm and fuzzy flashbulb finale. Until then it’s Sorkin’s show, which means the film is structured basically like a three-act play. Each segment is backstage before a product launch. Each segment is largely the same. Jobs harangues everyone while his subjects quip thematically about his big picture personal flaws, his assistant (or head of marketing? What she said her job is and what she does seem very different) played by Kate Winslet competently keeps things running despite her terrible accent, and a confrontation involving his daughter ends with money being wired to a bank account.
That means one hundred and twenty-two minutes of conversation. Luckily, even though the writing leans on its tropes a little heavily, aside from a few clunky lines that hit your nose so square-on you may want to bring an ice-pack, we move briskly along as Fassbender enjoys unhealthy repartees with Seth Rogen’s Steve Wozniak and Jeff Daniels’s Steve Scully. What we miss is a reason to care.
The emotional nucleus of the film intends to be Jobs’s relationship with his daughter. Yet, the emotional distance is written so strongly into Jobs’s character and the direction so weak, that any empathy for the little girl flitters away in favor of the big announcement constantly awaiting us offscreen. It doesn’t help that the inevitable confrontations between Jobs and the estranged mother of his child are some of the few scenes that take place confined to an enclosed room. The wind doesn’t just go out of the sails, the boat scuttles itself on a reef.
There are moments that you can tell were put in place to show bonding, growth, and change, but there’s not a shred of tenderness. Just defibrillation. We start with a sociopathic Steve Jobs cyborg and end with a Steve Jobs who’s been jolted into paternal realization. And you know what? It’d be a better movie if embraced that. Unfortunately, the film believes it’s bridged some sort of emotional gap when all its done is given us an inviting, more friendly machine to say “Hello”.
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