There are two prevailing schools of thought when it comes to the biopic.
The first holds that the best way to approach a subject’s life is to simply depict it in a straightforward manner from start to finish. The other philosophy maintains that it’s more illuminating to focus on a single instance, or several instances, that indicate something larger rather than the sweeping picture.
“Steve Jobs,” the much anticipated adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s mammoth biography of the iconic Apple visionary, ostensibly belongs in the second category. It focuses on the behind-the-scenes machinations at three notable product launches — the original Macintosh (1984), the NeXTCube (1988) and the iMac (1998) — and weaves in the rest of Jobs’ history through monologues rife with digressions and fiery conversations.
The film doesn’t fit the conventional micro-focus pattern, because it’s really an Aaron Sorkin movie before it’s anything else. It’s a film driven by verbal razzmatazz, explosive and thought-provoking confrontations between Jobs (Michael Fassbender, who is outstanding) and some of the most important individuals in his life, from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) to right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) and, most significantly, the daughter he spent several years denying.
Sorkin’s characteristically complex dialogue is the primary attraction, forming and flowing across each conversation in a fashion that comes awfully close to illuminating something essential about an inscrutable man, who revolutionized the tech industry by personalizing it while apparently mistreating and neglecting many of those who crossed his path.
Director Danny Boyle fills each frame with the fervor warranted by Sorkin’s words, with wide shots of enthusiastic crowds, shaking chandeliers, rear projections and extraordinarily meticulous blocking creating a vibrant spectacle.
It’s an ideal combination of artist and subject, an intense motion picture befitting its single-minded main character that simultaneously evokes something deep and elemental about the loneliness of life in the spotlight.