Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet
4 (out of 5) Globes
The Aaron Sorkin-built “Steve Jobs” only has three “scenes,” but there’s a mountain of sheer stuff crammed into them. Each section, charting the real-time-ish build-up to three of the tech god’s key product launches, is endlessly wordy, endlessly busy, with roughly 10,000 moving parts, not the least being characters scampering between rooms and not-yet-filled auditoriums as they breathlessly volley fine Sorkinese. The segments are so dense, so teeming with quips and heady thoughts, that it’s almost a shame to try to suss out big ideas. That would simply seem reductive — an attempt to tame a film that’s at its best when it’s simply moving.
Reducing it to big ideas is exactly what happens in “Steve Jobs” — eventually. It’s two great, breakneck episodes followed by a third that fumbles when it tries to tie it all together, and especially when it tries to make us feel for Michael Fassbender’s perpetually wigged-out Jobs. But it mostly avoids being the film it shouldn’t be. It’s not a simplistic missive on What Steve Jobs Means or Who Steve Jobs Really Was or How We Live Now. It has plenty to say about all three, but it buries them in tune-out-and-miss nuggets dropped into dialogue or made subliminally. “Just because you say so doesn’t make it so,” someone scolds at him, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge lines. But his dream is to make saying so being so. It's a stray line that fills one piece of the puzzle, encouraging one to think of its prickly anti-hero trying to shape the world as he semi-sociopathically lives it: as emotionally cold and disconnected from people, trying to micro-manage how he’s seen publicly while he misbehaves behind the scenes.
And “Steve Jobs” stays entirely behind the scenes. It’s even a kind of backstage musical — a Busby Berkeley movie that cuts out right before the eye-popping numbers, in this case the product launches themselves. (With its surfeit of long takes speed-walking and talking, it also smacks of a “Birdman” but with cuts.) At heart it’s a simple rise-and-fall-then-fall-some-more-then-rise-like-Olympus narrative. The products are the semi-successful original Macintosh in 1984, the failed, box-shaped NeXT computer in 1988 and the comeback triumph that was the iMac in 1998. This doesn’t remotely tell the entire Jobs story, like “Jobs” or the recent doc “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” but it gets a lot in, and it has a shape, a perspective.