Steve Jobs (2015)

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The biopic film is a sub-genre that focuses on the life story of a significant person and usually aims to immortalise, celebrate, document or, in some cases, demonise them or their achievements. As the creative genius behind one of the most successful enterprises on the planet, the late Steve Jobs stood at the epicentre of some of the greatest technological changes seen in the last century. Yet this film is not about achievements or technology at all. While the narrative is framed by three key product launches that shaped the destiny of Apple Inc., it is an unexpectedly unflattering and melodramatic portrait of a tortured soul. Frequent references to his adoption as a child, his need for a surrogate father, and the denial of his own daughter, makes this a story of a little boy lost who grew up to be a man he did not like.

Michael Fassbinder gives a powerful performance as Jobs and the lack of narrative action is made up for with plenty of flashbacks and fast-paced dialogue, often with several people at once, to create a cacophony of emotional noise to reflect the inner world of Steve Jobs. The portrait is not nice and many will see the film as one to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Fassbinder’s ability to portray manic arrogance and genius at the same time makes for compelling viewing. He permits short sharp glimpses of suppressed emotional confusion, even warmth, whenever Jobs is with his daughter Lisa, but this is contrasted by arrogant insensitivity towards everyone else around him.

The whole film is an immersive emotional high-wire act, with Lisa and Apple the two anchors of Jobs’ life. The cinematography is part of the message, with many shots of Jobs taken from low angles to make him appear larger than life, a messiah of techno-art and design, a man who not only saw the future but created it. In the final scenes his abrupt and corny conversion into the kind of father who smiles at his daughter rings hollow, but otherwise this is an engaging tale of a flawed human who was both hero and villain to those who knew him best.

Director: Danny Boyle                                                                                3 half stars

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogan

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