Steve Jobs is a ….

[Insert a rhyming word with a silent starting letter]

Film Review

The strobe lighting at the end was typical of Steve Jobs himself – selfishly creating show because he could, without thought for how it affected others. There were no warnings for epilepsy and other sufferers and it wasn’t pleasant, nor was it necessary or desirable.

Because we never see Steve Jobs do a launch, we never see the side of him that drew an audience. So when he claims to be like a conductor, playing the orchestra, we can’t believe him because we’ve never seen him do so. That arrogant put down quote is untrue – the other Steve and Andy wrote the score. Those colleagues weren’t workbenchers, they were creating the notes Jobs took credit for. Not that we should knock our benchworkers either. But most orchestras are about replication to a high standard, including the conductor. My greatest admiration goes to composers and those who can ad lib. No Jobs, you’re not an artist. Artists are the creators and it’s quite possible, as the film points out, to be a nice one.

I felt like giving the other Steve (Wozinak) and Andy Hertzfeld a hug and punching Jobs on their behalf. I am sorry that the actors playing these people (Seth Rogen and Michael Stulhbarg) rarely get much a mention or a photograph in film brochures, but they are very important to the film.

You’ll see that this film made me angry, and that was before I learned from Sight and Sound that director Danny Boyle glibly added $5m to the budget by choosing to shoot in California, but only paid 3000 extras with a banana and apple each for a day’s work. That’s the kind of injustice of Jobs himself.

Yet I did, in part, enjoy the film.

Kate Winslet made the film bearable by her role as Joanna Hoffman, who I sympathised with very much. She can tell Steve off without losing her temper or being as unkind back. It is she who points out the abysmal father he’s being, though she never criticises his behaviour to the child’s mother, who is financially struggling throughout the 14 years of this story. When Joanna said she loved Jobs, I wondered why – and also why she had worked with him for 19 years if these three launches were anything like typical of his behaviour.

I didn’t like the film’s three launch structure, I’m not sure it’s totally right to call them acts. My understanding of the three act structure is that 1 and 3 are short: one sets up the action – why does the story start start now? Act 2 is the main story, and 3 is the denouement to the wrap. Some stories have more than three acts; perhaps this is one of them.

I’m all for breaking convention but stories naturally start with something happening, a break in the usual life of someone… and this, when you catch your breath and think about it, doesn’t really. Steve Jobs doesn’t go far developmentally or in terms of space – it’s all corridors and stages. I disagree with Sight and Sound that Jobs’ improvement and a more positive end note makes the film weaker – I believe passionately that grit and misery aren’t more real or deep, and that we choose our perspective and reasons. And characters are supposed to develop in stories – it’s the point of them, as in life! But because we never see between the acts we don’t see the catalysts and are not therefore able to follow the trajectory of the characters.

Aaron Sorkin, the writer, is quoted in a current film magazine saying that character and plot get in the way – it’s all about dialogue for him. And this film is all dialogue. I was glad about that in a way – some films go to the other extreme and I have often heard the maxim to make film primarily visual and the dialogue is to be used sparingly. But this is too much talking, and despite what he says in the Total Film interview, Sorkin – you haven’t included only what’s needed for the story, because there isn’t that much of one and you said in another place that those things are subordinate for you.

This movie would just as well be a play and has little that’s purely cinematic about it. It’s intense and relentless and it didn’t believe that these conversations would happen minutes before major launches. Just as Jobs is handling one person, there’s a knock and another one wants to start a fight. And all with a timer bomb tick tick to the launch….

Even when Jobs is less nasty and tries to bond with his daughter at last, he’s selfish: He’s been a stickler for time, and now he makes others wait to indulge the thing that currently captures him, inappropriately insisting to see her essays at that moment, despite being late for his biggest launch yet. But I don’t want 100s of songs in my pocket, I like the music industry how it was… has Jobs though about the effect on record shops and companies any more than he has thought of how his inventions involved poor working conditions for those in the factories in other countries that made them? Or that CGI is an uglier form of filmmaking and could lose actors and set makers their jobs, Jobs. I hate his efficient animal with a bicycle speech, which…

I pause to gather myself. I am not sure if reviewing this film is good for my inner workings.

A world where we care about efficiency, where we see the wondrous beings we can be (this Jobs is not a good example) as lacking in that harsh, shallow, number driven way… it recalls the man who observed a coal shoveller and decided the shoveller could be trained to change his technique and shovel more in the same time for the same wage. No thought to the bore of the job, the harm to the worker, or that he ought to deserve more pay and breaks…. such a man is Jobs, a man who I doesn’t see as genius, who has thought about what is possible but not if it’s desirable nor cared what others feel, nor about ethics and implications, nor about harm from electromagnetic frequency that his bicycles in every home and songs in our pocket is causing. There’s a hint Jobs wasn’t money driven but someone hopping about for high sales projections and overpricing his actually ugly box with no operating system sounds pretty commercial to me.

Kate Winslet again has found an interesting role to play, but Jobs is not a man I wish to know more of and nor would I have chosen to spend time with him (real or this version) otherwise.

I close with wondering if the most common still from the film is meant to resemble Ed Harris as Christophe, the creator in/of The Truman Show, in his bubble, controlling a world from a distance, thinking of his own brilliance and boundaries, not of any one else?

Note who’s name’s missing. He, like Jobs, got too much attention in this film, which is at least a six player game. I am feeling over exposed to him and I have yet to like the characters he plays.

However, I read Jobs’ 2005 Stanford speech and felt – there was a fourth act, a coda needed. A man who tells us to find what we love, to live what we love, to see death (which he’d faced) as a gift, and to join the dots retrospectively, now seeing that being thrown out of Apple was a gift… that is a man who has learned wisdom, even if it wasn’t yet kind. Jobs also had a romance – but we never meet his wife. Sorkin’s Steve misses out the things that would be of interest and complete his story.

I have also just found the script and may post again after reading it.

Reviews of The Dressmaker and Carol are coming.

 

 

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