I’m not a Hollywood actor, but I imagine a role like Steve Jobs is catnip to actors who long to emote for the majority of the movie and play a tortured, irascible genius. In this case, it seems to mean wearing a black turtleneck and going full on Veruca Salt. Michael Fassbender in the just-released “Steve Jobs” (they’re rapidly running out of biopic titles for this man) gets many, many chances here to express disdain, irritation, annoyance, and wrath. Lots of wrath. And in this case, some of it is justified, since everyone in his life seems to seize the opportunity to tell him what a dick he is, shortly before he has to go out and make a presentation. Why this appears to be the only time Michael is available for heart-to-heart (a misnomer) talks is never explained, so the viewer must take it for granted that it just is. Throughout the film, Michael mostly strides around backstage, snapping at inept colleagues, alienating his daughter and her impoverished, resentful mother, and demanding the impossible: a dress shirt with a breast pocket, for instance, at a time when all stores are closed. Eventually, he orders someone to procure an Oompa Loompa and is promptly sent down the garbage chute No, not really, but you kind of wish he would.
Anyway, this movie, for all its strengths, is basically two hours of people not getting along. All the secondary characters (Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels) don’t let Michael intimidate them and shoot clever dialogue back at the speed of light, often at top volume. I honestly doubt there is more than two seconds of silence in this entire movie, or if there was, I don’t remember. There is a LOT of yelling, and at one point, Jeff’s face (he’s playing John Sculley) turns the shade of a ripe plum. Sometimes for variety, we’re treated to a close-up of Michael, which is a great opportunity to see his facial muscles twitching with rage. Or barely suppressed rage, who knows? Sitting through this movie is like being trapped on a long car trip with passengers who can’t get along. If during your youth, your parents spent a lot of time cursing, screaming, bickering and trying to one up each other, this is a great trigger movie. Just a warning.
If you’re tempted to flee, though, that’s too bad, because the movie does have strong performances from most of the cast. Kate’s accent comes and goes, but otherwise, she does a great job, and so do Seth and Jeff. I did see “Jobs” with Ashton Kutcher when it was released, and this is probably a minority opinion, but it seems like the main difference between him and Michael is that Michael has a much better scriptwriter. I think two movies on Jobs, as fascinating as he is, is my limit, as I am still unclear on exactly who left when at Apple, who got mad at who, who said what about who, and for what reasons, though I think one of the points this movie was making was that no one, not even the participants themselves, know. At one point, Kate accuses Michael of turning into “the Steve Jobs revenge machine,” which is an accurate term, At the end, we learn why Jobs is so heartless, but it’s likely that you already know – it’s a perhaps true but unoriginal reason, especially by Hollywood movie plot standards. Michael gets to have yet another heart-to-heart with his now college age daughter and admit that he’s “poorly made.” Or as Willy Wonka put it, “a bad egg.”