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Playing Catch-up with Aaron Sorkin's film adaptation of the Steve Job Story
By Elyse Sommer
A detailed documentary, a 2013 bio-film ,and Walter Isaacson's best selling 2011 biography, were publicized enough to fill me in on Jobs's personal history —even without seeing or reading them. And, while I haven't succumbed to a completely Apple-powered tech life, my iphone with it's little apple icon is never far from my side.
That said, it took Aaron Sorkin's terrific stage adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and HBO's adding Steve Jobs also scripted by Sorkins to its streaming service to make me catch up with that 2015 film. So does its also featuring Jeff Daniels, the terrific Atticus Finch of the new Mockingbird also on board as John Sculley. It's also a fine introduction to the new to me Michael Fassbender who, as the titular character, is very much the star here
Despite the high-tech settings and huge line-up of bit players, director Danny Boyle has structured. the film like a three act play, with the action taking us back stage to each of Jobs's three showbiz like product launches: The Macintosh, Next and the iphone. In doing so, Boyle and Sorkin smartly avoided sticking closely to what just about everyone knows. Instead they gave their viewers a chance to get a better understanding of what made Steve Jobs, the man, tick.
Though Michael Fassbender looks nothing like the man he's portraying, he's magnetic enough for to somehow come off as Steve Jobs! The dramatic arc still follows the basic outline of the Jobs/Apple story, but without being a rehash. The result is a fascinating, if not fully fleshed out, character portrait of a complex personality. For all its filmic elements, it could also have worked as a stage play since it doesn't have a lot more sets than a live theater version would. Like any good play it relies good pacing, acting and dialogue to make its impact.
Fassbender captures his character's brilliance and arrogance. Like so many icons like this, he illustrates that great men aren't necessarily good, likeable men — not when it comes to being a friend, a lover and, especially, a father. His relationship With his daughter Lisa over the three acts' 14-year time span and played by three different actresses (Makenzie Moss at age 5, Ripley Sobo at age 9 and Perla Haney-Jardine at 19). It's the gradual warmth and closeness between Jobs and the daughter he initially refused to acknowledge that gives Steve Jobs a powerful emotional core. The emotional depth is further plumbed in the scenes in which we get an inside look his relationship with his Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) and the other people in his professional sphere: Andy Herzfeld (Michael Stuhlberg), assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and Jeff Daniels' Sculley.
In the unlikely event that Steve Jobs is just a name associated with that little icon on your phone, you may find yourself a bit at sea following the way this plays out. But no worries. As Aaron Sorkin adapted the current Broadway hit from Harper Lee's novel, so his source here was the 2011 Isaacson biography. Like Lee's book, it too is still available in hard, soft cover and digital editions.
©Copyright 2019, Elyse Sommer.
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