Steve Jobs ***

A solid biography that eschews the usual format of the biopic for something a little more interesting.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Let’s face it. Most traditional biopics suck. They’re interminable and run a fool’s errand of distilling a person’s life into two hours. The best biographies take a different track. They focus on specific parts of their subject’s life and have those stand in for the bigger picture. “Steve Jobs” does just that and is all the better for it.

The movie is about the titular co-founder and driving force behind Apple computers and its other technologies (you may be reading this on an iPhone or iPad, for example). It presents three specific, interrelated time periods of his life (specifically, major product launch events) and uses them as a microcosm to show who he was as a person. It begins in 1984 as he is about to present the Macintosh to the world, flashes forward to 1988 after he’s been ousted by Apple and is about to present his new company’s computer (called neXt), and finishes in 1998 when Jobs is back at Apple and about to unveil the iMac.

The film was written by Aaron Sorkin, whom I once thought to be infallible. After success in television with “The West Wing,” he wrote the motion pictures “The Social Network” and “Moneyball.”  All three are good to great. Then the “The Newsroom” happened. Masterminded by Sorkin, it was an awful show that made me question his talent as a writer. Happily, “Steve Jobs” is not only a return to quality, but it even shows growth. It has the depth, witty dialogue, and intense tete-a-tetes that his best works have, but it also shows a newfound command of structure that he previously seemed to struggle with.

Director Danny Boyle translates this script to the screen nicely. While the movie has his usual energy, it is more subdued than his previous films. Playful moments still appear, such as when Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and (then CEO of Apple) John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) discuss Bob Dylan songs. The scene is presented in a wide shot from above that reveals the song’s lyrics projected on the floor. Later, Jobs makes a reference to Skylab and archival footage of the space station plays out on the wall behind him. But these moments are few and far between. Instead of relying on his usual visual pyrotechnics, Boyle wisely lets the actors do most of the heavy lifting of the dialogue-heavy script. A great director bends (not breaks) his style to meet the material rather than the other way around, and Boyle proves again that he is a great director.

If the actors are doing all of the heavy lifting, then Michael Fassbender is the film’s Atlas. I will make this prediction: Fassbender will win the Oscar for this role. More importantly, he also gives an incredible performance! There is something hypnotic and imminently watchable about him. He inhabits the part completely and commands your attention throughout, which is especially important in a movie that has limited characters and locations like this one.

The supporting cast also acquits itself nicely, and they do just that, support. Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen have at least one stand out moment each. Rogen (as Steve Wozniak) especially surprises in an extended argument near the film’s end that bubbles up after years of repression. Winslet impresses with a vaguely European accent that doesn’t get in the way of a performance that is both strong and sympathetic at the same time. Of course, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

After having so many positive things to say about the movie, you would think that I would give it more than three stars. Well, prepare for a Shyamalan-esque twist to end this review. For all that’s good in “Steve Jobs,” and so much of it is, I never fell in love with the film. I’ve wracked my brain for two days trying to figure out why, but I’ve come up empty. It’s a solid film that I liked, but that’s it. Does it need to be more? To be truly memorable, yes it does. But you know what? Good is good enough. Know this: “Jobs” is a quality film all around, and I do recommend it. It has great direction, a very good script, and fantastic acting. Just know that despite all of these positives, you still might not fall in love with the movie. Sometimes, though, there’s nothing wrong with falling in like with something.

Cron Job Starts