Thursday, October 22, 2015
Sorkin always chooses arenas filled with bright Mensa members so you believe that his characters are at least capable of spontaneously delivering a masterful speech with a killer closing line. He’s not writing SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT 9.
His latest endeavor is STEVE JOBS. Clearly a fascinating subject, Jobs was a visionary, a tyrant, a genius, a nutcase, a failure, and spectacular success. All before breakfast. He was admired and feared. He was a perfectionist to where Oscar Levant would say “lighten up.” Jobs was truly larger-than-life. Unless you had Ashton Kutcher starring as him, it’s hard to imagine a bad movie about such a dynamic personality.
Add to the mix, Danny Boyle as director. He is without a doubt one of the finest, most creative, visually stunning directors we have. So on paper this was an absolute Dream Team making this film.
The result is very good. But if the real Steve Jobs were running the studio he would probably send it back for more development, rewrites, and reshoots. It’s an iPad that still has some bugs in it.
And to a certain extent, I blame the director.
Taking a bit of creative license, in all three scenarios people in his life would appear and get into verbal wrestling matches with him. His ex, his daughter, his former business associate, his former tech partner, his girl Friday. Who provided security for these venues?
Now in real life, at least some of these people might say “there may be a better time than five minutes before you have to address thousands of uber nerds.” Perhaps a discussion of why he was fired from his own company ten years prior could come at another time. When I was about to go on the air and broadcast a baseball game to a thirty-station network I generally did not get into a big argument with a former girlfriend over whether she should convert.
But like I said, it was a conceit and artists do that all the time. I think it would have served the material better if it were a play, but that’s neither here nor there.
So why I’m I blaming the director?
Because the dialogue, as rich and wonderful as it was, was relentless. Each segment played the same – fast paced, up against the clock, juggling crises – but without a break it was ultimately exhausting. David Fincher figured that out directing Sorkin’s SOCIAL NETWORK. He left some room for the audience to breathe. As a result, it was much easier to process, and when there were those high-charged super Sorkin exchanges they really popped. There were sections of STEVE JOBS when I admit I zoned out.
The film plays at one level – hyperspeed. Danny Boyle should know better. God forbid Jobs sat back, had a cup of tea, and reflected for five minutes. Instead, it seemed like he was mainlining Red Bull while downing bottle after bottle of 5-Hour Energy and then washing it all down with Jolt Cola.
At the end of the day, IF you are a Sorkin fan, you will be entertained. But you won’t learn anything new about Steve Jobs.
To me the essence of Steve Job is that his greatest gift is what ultimately killed him. He had this belief that he could will things into being. Engineers would tell him certain things were impossible, he would say they’re not, and sure enough he was right. The success of Apple is his vision and ability to create reality. That blind faith built a multi-billion dollar business and changed society.
But when he was diagnosed with cancer, instead of treating it medically and vigorously, he let it slide, counting on his ability to control outcomes. Well, this outcome he couldn’t control. To me, that’s a better story – the price of greatness, the irony that his greatest strength proved to be his greatest weakness. None of that was touched on in the movie – which I understand, but I would have been more interested in that story rather than would he and his teenage daughter reconcile?
Oh well. Maybe it’s time for a remake. What’s Ashton Kutcher doing these days?
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM