The year is 1984 and the Apple computer manufacturing and design company is about to launch its latest model the Apple Mackintosh. There has very recently been shown on television a one-off advertisement for the product which caused a sensation, and anticipation for it has gone sky high, which has seen the launch event one of the hottest corporate tickets in the world, but how good will it be if the computer cannot say "Hello"? That’s what the creator Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) wants it to do, but his programmer and technician Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) has let him down, which is driving the furiously ambitious Jobs round the bend with frustration. That's not all: the woman who claims to be the mother of his child is there too - with the child.
This wasn't the first movie to flop with Apple supremo Steve Jobs as its subject matter, that honour landed with the too similarly titled to be of much benefit Jobs of a couple of years before, but they both depicted their main man as a possible psychopath whose success was as much treading on other people on the way up as it was his ability to create huge innovations felt across the world. In this case, the hopes were higher than the Ashton Kutcher effort as it enjoyed the services of a higher profile cast and crew, among them Oscar-winners Danny Boyle on directing duties and Aaron Sorkin writing the script, seemingly a dream team given their love of pushing the medium in their respective ways, yet it was not to be and the film was rejected by general audiences, leaving its cult of fans facing criticism from the haters of Apple and all it stood for.
If you were not particularly partisan about the company, as most people were not, whether they used the products or otherwise, then you would wonder what the point of another movie about Jobs was anyway, which presumably was the reason it underperformed in a way that its obvious precedent, the Sorkin-scripted The Social Network, did not. That could have been down to half the world being obsessed with Facebook in a manner that they just were not when it came to Apple, which had its fanatical adherents for sure, but not enough of them to make this a hit. Combine that with the lack of a way in to Jobs' world provided by the film, which plunged you straight into Jobs' life (or an approximation of it) and apparently expected you to care immediately rather than building respect over time.
That was especially telling when from the beginning Steve was so egomaniacal that he proved difficult to warm to, which may have been the purpose as it made his eventual redemption, a sequence entirely invented by Sorkin that never actually happened, all the more convincing. However, by that finale the damage had been done, and what had unfolded as a fairly compelling picture of not such a great guy as far as his personality went wound up hard to believe that he would enjoy such a volte face in his demeanour and turn all warm and fuzzy. This was notably difficult to accept when he had been so dismissive of his daughter, played by three different actresses of various ages, for most of the two hours running time, and her mother (Katherine Waterston) who had been pretty much proved to be his family in spite of his rejection.
But Steve Jobs, the movie, was by no means a complete letdown even if it did fall at the final hurdle, for before taking that narrative tumble more Hollywood than anything else here there was a clutch of excellent performances to appreciate. Fassbender, though his accent was a little shaky, handled the masses of dialogue he was given like a man possessed, just right for the person he was portraying, though again when required to show any kind of emotion such as respect or even love the Jobs-esque angle rendered him too robotic; perhaps that was intentional. Never better was Kate Winslet as his righthand woman Joanna Hoffman, whose accent was intended to waver since the real woman sounded like that, providing the conscience the film should have had more faith in and occasional stealing scenes from the rampant Fassbender. Seth Rogen too was a nicely humane Steve Wozniak, the former partner of Jobs who felt he had been left by the wayside in his old pal's lust for glory, Jeff Daniels was a mixture of overbearing and vulnerable as the man who had Jobs fired from Apple, and Michael Stuhlbarg a perfect, put upon nerd. Interestingly, Steve's private life became very public in his arguments which as his preoccupation with exclusive technology proved he would have hated, so who knows what he would have made of this ultimately too-sugarcoated rendition? Music by Daniel Pemberton.
British director, from TV, who started his movie career with two big homegrown hits: Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. His Hollywood efforts suggested he's better when based in the U.K., as both 2005's kids comedy Millions and the hit zombie shocker 28 Days Later were big improvements on his two previous features, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.
Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, then scripted Boyle's ambitious sci-fi epic Sunshine. Boyle next enjoyed worldwide and Oscar success with Slumdog Millionaire, the biggest hit of his career, which he followed with true life survival drama 127 Hours and tricksy thriller Trance, in between staging the 2012 London Olympics to great acclaim. Business biopic Steve Jobs was a flop, however.