Jobs for all

At the gala screening of Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Perla Haney-Jardine and Aaron Sorkin
Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Perla Haney-Jardine and Aaron Sorkin Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

The evening before the memorial tribute to Albert Maysles and while Arnaud Desplechin, director of My Golden Days, was readying to give a talk at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Amphitheater, the Centerpiece Gala screening of Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs was about to take place, with Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Perla Haney-Jardine and Aaron Sorkin (who adapted Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs) on stage at Alice Tully Hall.

Danny Boyle with New York Film Festival director Kent Jones
Danny Boyle with New York Film Festival director Kent Jones Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

New York Film Festival director Kent Jones said he was proud to present the movie: "This is a completely fresh, surprising way of looking at the life of an extremely complex figure. And it's a very exciting one, too. It's a movie where we can just absolutely taste the excitement, the joy of the actors and the director working together in a way that very few people work now."

Kent confirmed with Danny Boyle, that what we were going to see was the "world premiere of the finished version" of his movie. As it now turns out, the unfinished one was at Telluride last month. When Boyle was introducing the cast, he also announced that Winslet's birthday was coming up this weekend (October 5) and proceeded to lead the Alice Tully Hall audience in a chorus of Happy Birthday dear Kate.

An Evening with Kate Winslet, with a dinner and conversation with Kent will be held on Tuesday, October 6, the day after her birthday. In a symmetrical coincidence, Steve Jobs died on October 5, 2011.

Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Perla Haney-Jardine and Aaron Sorkin
Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Perla Haney-Jardine and Aaron Sorkin Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs strides along as many backstage corridors as did last year's New York Film Festival Closing Night Gala selection, the Oscar-winning Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. The biopic of the central player of the digital revolution, played by the non-look-alike Michael Fassbender as a man who likes his calla lilies in place and his feet clean at any price, takes flight through a number of preludes. From the 1984 launch of the first Macintosh, to the NeXT workstation in 1988 and the iMac in 1998, we get to know the key players by their behaviour behind the scenes, right before the big events.

Kate Winslet as Head of Marketing Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO and former Pepsi executive John Sculley, Katherine Waterston as ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan, Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, computer scientist on the original Apple development team, and Lisa, his [non-] daughter in three ages (Makenzie Moss at 5, Ripley Sobo at 9, and Perla Haney-Jardine at 19), act and react with the man who says sentences like: "God sent his son on a suicide mission but we like him anyway because he made trees." Fassbender does his best to not make Jobs, the man, easily likable at first.

Steve Jobs Centerpiece Gala at Alice Tully Hall
Steve Jobs Centerpiece Gala at Alice Tully Hall Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

And that appears to be Boyle's point. By slowly exposing the faults of the people around him, the "genius" suddenly doesn't seem so bad. So what if Chrisann (Waterston) says she survives on welfare with Lisa. The story goes, she also threw a cup at the girl's head. Boyle's film, despite the formal construction of having most of the talking take place before the three major launches, is all about the private man with his demons on display. Several people discuss with him what it means to be an adopted child. "It's control," he exclaims, this explains his psyche.

Winslet as his marketing right hand gets to wear three wildly unflattering outfits with matching hairstyles that vaguely fit the decade, a conscious choice, I am sure, by costume designer and longtime Boyle collaborator, Suttirat Anne Larlarb, who also did the costumes for the Opening Night Gala film, Robert Zemeckis's The Walk. Joanna Hoffman is the only person to persistently stand up to Jobs and Winslet revels in her transformations.

 Steve Jobs US posters at Lincoln Center
Steve Jobs US posters at Lincoln Center Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

"The allies winning the war and this," referring to the Macintosh launch, are the two most important moments of the 20th century for Jobs and he is not joking. Very craftily, scenes slide from familiar to unfamiliar and back. The "perfect cube" will invade homes all over the world. A nightly board meeting with lovely cinematic rain splattering against the window, decides the fate of who stays and who leaves the company.

The triumphant Jobs return, garbed in the famous black turtleneck and belt-free jeans - iconic images are sprinkled throughout and legends partially explained. A huge photograph of computer science pioneer Alan Turing covers a wall backstage. Turing, a great admirer of Walt Disney's Snow White, killed himself by poisoning an apple. Jobs in Boyle's movie, keeps his answer about the logo and possible connections as inconclusive, as he does when his small daughter asks him if the personal computer Lisa was named after her or if she was named after the "Local Integrated Software Architecture." He calls it "coincidence." Others would say, "print the legend."

Steve Wozniak is credited as a consultant on the film.

Steve Jobs will be screened at the London Film Festival on October 18. The film opens in the US on October 23 and in the UK on November 13.

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