Considering this year’s BFI London Film Festival featured a movie shot entirely on an iPhone (the forthcoming Tangerine), it seems fitting that it should have drawn to a close last night with the European premiere of Steve Jobs.
Even more fitting was the fact that director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s combined take on the Apple co-founder managed to be iconoclastic in its own right, breaking free of the dreary strictures of the biopic to crack Jobs open in a way that’s intentionally impossible with his products. The film uses that Apple design feature – or flaw – as the company’s other co-founder, programming genius Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), puts it – as a driving metaphor for his need to control all aspects of his life, something we come to understand via Michael Fassbender’s performance and the film’s intriguing structure.
Set against the backdrop of three significant product launches – the 1984 introduction of the Mackintosh, his post-firing attempt to create a rival computer, and the introduction of the game-changing iMac – it repeatedly zeroes in on the strained relationship Jobs had with his daughter and his colleagues to show how his bigger picture thinking was an attempt to paper over how poorly made he felt he was himself.
Sorkin’s wonderfully verbose script doesn’t stint on presenting Jobs as another variant on the asshole genius here, but to quote the film, “these things aren’t binary” and Boyle’s innate humanism ensures the film doesn’t vilify or venerate: it treats him like a human being, even when he’s not acting like one.