|'Just as he has done successfully in the past, Sorkin focuses on the relationships between the people he's writing about, rather than what the people themselves are known for doing'.|
On much of the promotional material for Steve Jobs, the film's title is appended by a text cursor as if the words are being typed on a word processor. Based on the portrayal of Jobs throughout much of their film, it's not hard to imagine either director Danny Boyle or screenwriter Aaron Sorkin sat at their hypothetical keyboard, continuing to type after writing the Apple co-founder's name to make the full title of their film: "Steve Jobs is an arsehole" (or "asshole" in Sorkin's case, of course).
Splitting the film between three pivotal moments in time in 1984, 1988 and 1998, Boyle and Sorkin offer a cinematic triptych through which they paint their portrait of Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender); the first two of these, at least, feel intent on showing just how abhorrent Jobs could be as a human being. During the 1984 segment, which centres on the launch of the Apple Macintosh computer, Jobs is shown threatening his employees, berating his ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), and disavowing his five-year-old daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss) in front of her.
It's to the credit of both the director and writer, as well as Fassbender's blistering performance, that watching Steve Jobs the person doesn't make watching Steve Jobs the film feel nearly as unpleasant. Just as he has done successfully in the past, Sorkin focuses on the relationships between the people he's writing about, rather than what the people themselves are known for doing. The West Wing was at its very best when it stayed away from the minutiae of American politics, as was The Social Network when it kept the technical side of developing Facebook in the background. Steve Jobs very much follows in the footsteps of Sorkin's strongest work, simultaneously humanising and dehumanising Jobs through the people with whom he comes into contact and, more often than not, conflict.
What this results in is a series of emotionally-charged 'Sorkin-offs' between Jobs and other characters. Those between Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) are great; those between Jobs and Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) are outstanding. But it's the handful of scenes between Jobs and John Scully (Jeff Daniels) that without doubt earned Fassbender his Oscar nomination (it's hard not to feel Daniels deserved a Supporting Actor nod as well), and it's in these moments that Steve Jobs is untouchable. It would be unfair not to also mention Kate Winslet's support which is excellent throughout, even if her accent is somewhat less consistent.
If Steve Jobs falls down anywhere, it's in Boyle and Sorkin's attempt to convince us in the end that Jobs has significantly transformed by 1998 from the arsehole he was in 1984. It feels both overly sentimental and largely unconvincing - but that's only because the pair have done such a sterling job of convincing us otherwise through the intense and uncompromising film that precede the closing scenes.