The following is a guest post by film critic Max Colmenares
As flashy and flawed as its subject matter, Steve Jobs might be the most entertained I’ve been by a movie this year. A meld of fast-paced dialog, flashy camera work, and stellar acting, it’s everything we should want in cinema–at least on the surface.
The film takes place in three parts, each in an exposition hall hours before critically important presentations by the film’s protagonist, Steve Jobs. Flashbacks are drawn from occasionally, but most of the action takes place on those three days.
It’s a brilliant tool for character development. We see the characters experience something and then flash forward, instantly seeing the bearing it has on their life years down the line. Also, rather than slowly showing the transformation of a character as they live, we see a changed character and then are given insight as to what changed them.
The main problem with this structure, however, is the “how the hell did so many things happen all at once?”, which occasionally makes events or certain character developments unbelievable, if only because they’re unexplained. This isn’t a huge problem though, as the high stakes of the present moment and the film’s momentum carry it forward.
For those familiar with Aaron Sorkin’s writing (The West Wing, The Social Network), you know his penchant for incredibly clever and fast-paced dialog. Conversations flow like poetry, insults you wish you came up with hit you in the gut, emotional moments bubbling up at just the right time. The only problem is that it’s hard to believe you’re watching real humans and not genetically engineered forensics champions. Maybe it’s like the language of Shakespeare, needing to be accepted for its beauty rather than its realism–but, then again, this is based on recent history and I don’t enjoy Shakespeare.
With such an attention-grabbing script and its larger than life subject, it’s easy to forget this film was directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle. As with David Fincher on The Social Network, Boyle handles Sorkin’s script loyally, yet adds his own flares. There are a several beautifully composed shots, with the look of the film fitting perfectly with the desired tone, and the direction of actors playing superbly to Sorkin’s writing. There are also some cool eccentric visual flares that I won’t spoil. Overall, Danny Boyle couldn’t have done a better job.
Then, finally, there are the actors. Most of the acting is fantastic; indeed, there’s not one performance that ever strays into the realm of bad; though to be fair, the child acting is only decent.
Michael Fassbender disappears into his character (Steve Jobs), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak) shows us he can pull off a serious role, Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman) garners sympathy and respect, Jeff Daniels (John Sculley) does the thing he’s been doing so well for so long, and Michael Stuhlbarg (Andy Hertzfeld) continues to be one of the most under-appreciated actors of our time. I’ll admit, I’m not the best at talking about what actors do well, but I definitely know when an actor blows it, rendering a film unbelievable or staged. In Steve Jobs, we are never distracted–at least not by the actors.
Even with some flaws in the script, Steve Jobs remains a great achievement in film that exhibits Aaron Sorkin’s continued ability to entertain, Danny Boyle’s large amount of talent as a director, and an ensemble cast that does not disappoint.
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