×

With ‘Steve Jobs,’ Fassbender Shoots to the Top of This Year’s Best Actor Oscar Race

Aaron Sorkin provides the words but Michael Fassbender turns them into music.

TELLURIDE, Colo. — The truth is I half anticipated Michael Fassbender to be a weak link of Danny Boyle’s “Steve Jobs,” which world premiered as a “work in progress” here Saturday night. Something about the repressed accent in the trailer and the curious casting call in the first place, maybe. Whatever the case, let’s just say the “Shame” and “12 Years a Slave” star crushes the role of the eponymous tortured genius and then some in a film that takes bold strides within a well-worn genre and is sure to take off throughout the season…if the character doesn’t put viewers off, that is.

Because that can sometimes be a hurdle. Jobs is very unlikable throughout. It’s the borderline thesis of the film: “It takes a**holes to invent the future.” But that’s what’s so compelling about the picture in this conception. It’s not a greatest hits biopic. It’s a character study interested in how Jobs grows within a 14-year span (the launch of the Macintosh in 1984 through the launch of the iMac in 1998), focusing on his innovations at Apple, his eventual release from the company, his relationship with a daughter he wouldn’t claim for years, his triumphant return to the Apple fold and his volatile rapport with co-workers and colleagues.

Some are already calling it “Birdman” by way of Aaron Sorkin, and there’s a lot of that in there. The gifted scribe’s rat-tat-tat delivery on the page must have yielded a script full of white space, because it’s wall-to-wall dialogue. Like another film at the fest dependent on talking-head drama, Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” it falls on the editor (Elliot Graham) to keep things moving, and indeed, the choice of structuring the film with a series of near-vignettes helps this immensely. But Sorkin has done a marvelous job of picking the right moments of this particular span of time and conveying them with smart and casual ease.

But back to Fassbender: he completely owns the screen for the film’s 125-minute running time. Co-stars Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston and John Ortiz, among others, provide lots of color. And Winslet and Rogen in particular fill in crucial interpersonal shading for Jobs the character. But Fassbender is possessed here, and therefore a no-brainer best actor Oscar contender who just shot to the top of that list alongside gentlemen like Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”) and Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”) this year.

So call it a contender. “Steve Jobs” just made perhaps the biggest splash of the 42nd Telluride Film Festival so far. And count on Universal hoping that five-year streak of best picture screenings here in the San Juans extends to six.

More on this film, I’m sure, in due time. Keep a lookout for Justin Chang’s official Variety review soon.

More Film

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

  • Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Movie

    Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Thriller 'Unhinged' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jimmi Simpson will play a key role in “Unhinged,” Variety has learned. He joins an impressive cast that includes Oscar-winner Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius. Solstice Studios is producing the psychological thriller, which is currently filming in New Orleans. “Unhinged” centers on a woman named Rachel (Pistorius), who leans on her horn at the wrong [...]

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

  • Javier Bardem Dune

    Javier Bardem in Talks to Play King Triton in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Javier Bardem is in talks to play King Triton in Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. Harry Styles is also in early talks to play Prince Eric. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • UglyDolls

    STX Tries to Put Flops Behind It as It Searches for Star Executive, Fresh Capital

    After a series of film flops and an aborted initial public offering, STX Entertainment is battling mounting skepticism that it can survive in an increasingly unforgiving movie business. As it hustles to find $500 million in fresh capital, the company, which operates in the red according to financial disclosures, is simultaneously hoping to attract a [...]

  • Ryan Simpkins

    Ryan Simpkins Joins Fox-Disney's 'Fear Street' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Ryan Simpkins has joined Fox-Disney’s second installment of 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Fear Street” trilogy, based on the novels by R.L. Stine. Leigh Janiak is helming all three films. Previously announced cast includes Gillian Jacobs, Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, McCabe Slye, Kiana Madeira, Olivia Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr., Ashley Zukerman, Fred Hechinger, Julia [...]

  • MPAA Logo

    Motion Picture Association of America Hires Emily Lenzner as Communications Chief

    The Motion Picture Association of America has appointed veteran public relations executive Emily Lenzner as its executive VP of global communications and public affairs. She will report to Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin and oversee the trade group’s communications team in the U.S. and internationally. Lenzner will start Aug. 1 and be based at the MPAA’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content