Aaron Sorkin’s Empty Jobs Search

This movie fails to imbue Apple’s enigmatic co-founder with any humanity

Michael Fassbender stars as Apple's enigmatic co-founder in Steve Jobs.
Michael Fassbender stars in Steve Jobs.

If you’re interested in the rags-to-riches story of the late Steve Jobs, the tech nerd who devoted his life to the digital revolution and self-destructed in the process, then stay away from the cold, bloodless and incomprehensible movie with the cut-the-crap-and-get-to-the-point title Steve Jobs. You will learn a lot more about him by watching the excellent and fascinating Alex Gibney documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine—a much better movie and a far more revealing look at the person behind the enigma than anything in the fictionalized mess that has been clumsily directed by Danny Boyle and pretentiously written by Aaron Sorkin. There’s no humanity in this grave disappointment that justifies the passion his fans feel for the father of the iMac. Steve Jobs and all of the characters around him fail to come to life in any absorbing fashion. They’re not real people; they’re all hashtags.

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(1/4 stars)

Written by: Aaron Sorkin
Directed by:
Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen
Running time: 122 min.

At the press conference following the unveiling of Steve Jobs at the New York Film Festival last week, Mr. Sorkin informed the audience he did not want to make a “biopic.” This is the major problem of a movie infected with them. It fails to tell any story at all. How did a child who was ashamed of being adopted rise from loser to CEO of Apple? He may have revolutionized digital technology, but he also weakened humanity’s most valuable asset—the power of communication. How did he feel about that?  And what about his personal life? Inquiring minds want to know. If there is a story worth telling, it’s a secret here.

The movie touches on his rejection of the woman and child who claimed to be his only legal family, although the truth is that he was married with three other children. These are facts that are never mentioned. And despite the immense charisma of Michael Fassbender (who looks nothing whatsoever like Jobs) in the title role, and Kate Winslet as his tough, smart and loyal right arm and head of Apple marketing (a totally fabricated composite of several people), the characters created by Mr. Sorkin are so faceless and one-dimensional that the supporting actors playing them (Jeff Daniels, Alan Alda, Seth Rogen and others) are as wasted as disposable Kleenex from a tissue box.

What you do get is a character called Steve Jobs who embodies the qualities of a man who is not worth making a movie about. Cold, obnoxious, neurotic, selfish, indifferent toward everything but his computers (worth $441 million when his wife and daughter were living on welfare), and as cracked as the Apple logo. The structure, designed by Mr. Sorkin to take place during three separate Apple product launches, is so hard to keep up with that the characters show up in myriad costumes in the same scene. The show-off dialogue about profit margins and market shares and revolutionary Ethernets is so full of technological mumbo-jumbo it might as well be written in Swahili.

Like Facebook guru Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Jobs comes off as so arrogant, illogical, unbearably unpleasant and self-absorbed to the point of self-delusion that he comes unhinged when somebody else writes a tuition check for his daughter at Harvard because it makes him sound like he’s a poor role model. A mass of contradictions, he manipulates the press, insults his employees and shows indifference to other people’s opinions and feelings, then loses it when a confidante suggests, “You can be gifted and decent at the same time!” But it’s a presumption a man as chilly as an ice bucket never comprehends.

This is a movie in freefall. It never coheres or lands on two feet. I suppose one should respect its unconventional pacing and screwball screenplay, and I suppose there are computer geeks out there who may very well care, but there are millions of potential moviegoers who won’t. Steve Jobs may be a film of great audacity. But any bogus entertainment that crams 19 years of computer technology into two hours of film without any identifiable human emotion, character development or narrative coherence is not the kind of movie I could ever cuddle up with.

Aaron Sorkin’s Empty Jobs Search