Steve Jobs13 Oct 2015
The first act of this film is a masterful piece of screen writing. In fact, when I heard about the conceit for this script last year I was already excited. Sorkin took the germ of his idea, 3 45 minute behind the scenes sequences of Steve Jobs before seminal product launches, and turned it into an impressive script. Immediately in the first act, all the familiar Sorkin tools are apparent: the walk and talks, heavy interpersonal drama brought out through dialog, grand themes explored through minutiae. Sorkin tosses all these balls into the air at once and juggles them beautifully. The second and third act don’t deliver as much on their promise, but still, the writing is impressive as ever.
You could argue that this film is the antithesis of The Martian. Hardly any problems are solved. It’s all about introspection. And there are many more religious and spiritual overtones rather than pragmatic, scientific problem solving.
Steve Jobs, somewhat like Selma, chose to eschew the usual conscripts of a cradle-to-grave biopic, instead showing a man’s life through one or a few important moments in his life. With the exception of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, I’m strongly starting to favor this choice rather than the usual biopic. However, unlike Selma, which elected to showcase MLK’s experience near the apex of his political and national life, Steve Jobs chose 3 major events in Jobs’ life before he really became an unquestionable national success. Apple and Jobs were not nearly the undisputed kings of consumer tech they are today. In fact, until the launch of the iPhone in 2007, Apple’s marketshare was not nearly as great as it is today.
Despite all of these successes - in addition to the score, the choice in film formats by Danny Boyle, the fact that Danny Boyle largely stayed out of the way of this film (unlike Fincher who inserted himself squarely into Social Network but arguably produced a better film), the acting by the main cast - one thing kept nagging me throughout. Aaron Sorkin has a very particular conceptualization of masculinity and there is no room for much else in his world. Johanna Hoffman, a marketing executive, is basically rendered a glorified personal assistant in this film. Steve Wozniak, a man famous for his gregarious, giving, genial qualities, is deflated into Steve’s “little buddy,” given no teeth in any of their arguments. Even the woman for whom Sorkin seems to have the most affection, Jobs’ daughter Lisa, is only ever seen through paternalistic eyes. For all the criticism that’s leveled against Jonathan Franzen for having a strong male white gaze, Sorkin should receive as much if not more criticism.