This began as a random late night movie at home – because you shouldn’t sleep early on Saturday nights. Finished in two parts – one that night and the rest the next morning. Relatively interruption free, the phone and social media stayed away on their own. Which is impressive and is the first positive sign, because if you’re watching at home, a non-engaging movie will go on and on in bits and pieces.
Did not know this was an Aaron Sorkin movie before I watched it, but made perfect sense afterwards. For anyone who has watched The Social Network (or the Newsroom, where he shows off on a much larger scale) – this will seem familiar. The crisp rat-a-tat of dialogues, quotes and repartees is the hallmark of a movie which as many have said – could have been converted into a stage production without much trouble. In a movie which has very little in terms of other ‘showiness’ (for lack of a better word)– it is the dialogue and the screenplay which help it stand apart. And some intense acting which never veers into overacting territory.
It’s also a refreshingly different treatment for the biography of a character who everyone already knows a bit about. So the conventional linear storyline is junked and we get what in HR terminology is called ‘3 critical incidents’ spread out over the period of 14 years connected by cool looking video montages. Having a scene by scene history lesson would not have been as cool.
What works is how the Jobs himself is portrayed – something between a hero and an anti-hero. Supremely confident in his own beliefs and abilities, yet not someone who is never wrong. A persona who commands respect, yet has enough cockiness about him to want people to absolutely hate him. A contradiction between someone who wants to be loved and respected by the world (wants to be on the cover of Time!) yet cannot be bothered to be likable to the people around him.
It’s also nice that the director made no effort to justify all these things. There’s no back story which made him what he is, no easy linear explanation, no end goal. Nothing which will make you eventually like or root for Jobs. He was a dick, albeit a successful one. And that as Woz puts it – doesn’t have to be binary: you can be a decent person and a genius at the same time – but sometimes it isn’t so.
This is obviously a movie which has taken heavy liberties with reality – I doubt even the great Steve Jobs would have a chance to resolve battles with all the big players of his life in the half an hour leading to every keynote address, not to mention actually getting everyone there together at the around the same time, but not the same time nonetheless. But if the idea was to show us a picture of the man, then it has succeeded.