Apple core

Revealing biopic on tech guru Steve Jobs

Starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen. Directed by Danny Boyle. Cinemark 14. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

Michael Fassbender (who has the title role here) can’t help but make Steve Jobs seem a more sympathetic-looking person than he was in actuality. But that’s not really a problem in this brilliant, fragmentary biopic.

Fassbender is excellent throughout and perfectly suited to a role and script centered more on mental gymnastics and emotional short circuits than on anything else. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, etc.) shows a special flair here for dialogue that reflects the impacted, three-jumps-ahead logic of Jobs’ extraordinary mindset: part egomaniac, part visionary innovator, part wounded and self-wounding child.

Walter Isaacson’s monumental biography of Jobs is credited as the basis for Sorkin’s screenplay, but Sorkin and director Danny Boyle build Steve Jobs on a highly compressed dramatic structure. Basically, that drama has three acts, each of which is centered on the last-minute preparations and backstage turmoil on the eve of a major product roll-out.

Each of those episodes includes an encounter with Lisa, the daughter born out of wedlock whom Jobs at first refuses to acknowledge. Lisa, a different age in each episode, is played by three different young actors—Makenzie Moss (age 5), Ripley Sobo (9), Perla Haney-Jardine (19)—and the sometimes painful progress of their relationship becomes a central emotional thread in the film’s story.

Sorkin works in telling glimpses of Jobs’ relations with several other key figures in his life. Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg), Lisa’s mother (Katherine Waterston) and Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) all get significant attention.

As Jobs’ longtime aide, confidante, adviser and managing partner, Hoffman is especially important. She is a very active participant in all three episodes, and her mixture of witty practicality, moral and emotional stamina and clear-headed dedication counts for quite a lot in the film’s portraiture of Jobs and his key associates.