Telluride Review: Steve Jobs (★★★★)



Seven years ago, Danny Boyle took Telluride by storm with his nearly-straight-to-video hit, Slumdog Millionaire. His little film would go on to bulldoze its way through awards season, stopping to pick up the big prize at The Golden Globes, BAFTA, SAG, DGA, and PGA, before winning eight of the ten Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture. Boyle is back at Telluride this year, painting an intimate portrait of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs in his biopic penned by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and starring Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) in the titular role.

With the help of Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak (played in the film by Seth Rogen), Sorkin adapted the screenplay from Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs.” The film takes us backstage through three major Apple product launches spanning fourteen years. In these intervals, we are allowed to play a fly on the wall to witness the tumultuous relationships in the life of the brilliant engineer of the digital revolution.

Steve Jobs was originally intended to be helmed by David Fincher (The Social Network) starring Christian Bale as the iconic figure, but contractual disputes led to quick exits for the auteur and his star, the latter of which actually left the project twice. Universal then grabbed the film from Sony, and a dozen other casting problems occurred. Names like Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Bradley Cooper were involved for a while before Fassbender, Rogen, and Winslet stepped in to fill the main roles.

It should be known that the screening we received in Telluride has been called a “work in progress,” allowing time for Boyle to fiddle with the film before its actual October 9 release date. But if you ask me, this rough draft is worth being the final edit.

The stars of the film are, not surprisingly, Michael Fassbender and Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin’s dialogue snaps, crackles, and pops with adroit enthusiasm, and Fassbender pontificates the almost-too-smart banter like a maestro. I’ll get right to the point: Fassy simply gives the best performance of the year so far, and should jump to the top of any Oscar predictions you might have going. Kate Winslet is also sublime, playing Joanna Hoffman, a member of the original Mac and NeXT teams, who refers to herself as Jobs’ work wife and best friend. The rest of the cast is stellar, including Jeff Daniels, who plays John Sculley, the Apple CEO from 1983 to 1993, Katherine Waterston, who plays the estranged Chrisann Brennan – an ex-girlfriend, former employee, and mother of Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Steve’s possible daughter), and Seth Rogen, who more than handles the role of Steve Wozniak.

Another extraordinary accomplishment is the work of editor Elliot Graham, whose quick pacing manages to keep the beat with Sorkin’s lines, and is aided by Daniel Pemberton’s intensified score.

This is one of those films that is nearly impossible to take in on one showing, folks. The movie is loaded front to back with incredible line after incredible line, but it all flies at you so fast that I believe the film will play better upon second and third showings – as great films often do. Prior to the world premiere showing, director Danny Boyle spoke to us about how the average two-hour movie might be around 100 pages. Steve Jobs clocked in at over 200. It moves that fast.

Does Danny Boyle have another Slumdog Millionaire on his hands, awards-wise? It’s hard to be sure, as the film is certainly cold, and maybe too intelligent – for lack of a less condescending definition – for some Academy members. Steve Jobs will certainly make for an excellent companion piece to another Sorkin-written film, The Social Network, a double feature I am most certainly looking forward to sitting down to one day. 

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Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Game of Thrones, Lost, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.