Michael Fassbender received his second Oscar nomination for portraying the titular character of Steve Jobs.
Michael Fassbender plays the man behind it all and has probably more screen time percentage wise than the so called "one man show" performances of his fellow nominees, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant and Matt Damon in The Martian. He's in pretty much every scene as the film follows him as he deals with every person and problem in Steve Jobs's life. Fassbender actually looks nothing like the real Steve Jobs, but he goes about doing his best to make up for that. The first being his voice which Fassbender actually surprises with, despite liking Fassbender I'll admit his accents have never been his strong suit, but here he maintains his version of Steve Jobs's slightly whiny timbre. It is not an exact replica but Fassbender makes it his own to the point that it always seems a natural part of his character. In addition Fassbender takes upon Jobs's certain mannerisms, which are interesting, as with the real Jobs, in that they are sort of understated yet overt. That is Fassbender's performance is not so obviously mannered yet the distinct way he keeps a careful posture, and his particular use of his body language, especially in terms of his hand and arm movements, is that of Jobs. Now even all of this, except the voice, actually has a bit of hidden purpose which I'll get to later.
Now a pivotal line in the film is when Jobs's oldest friend and work partner Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) states that the Jobs we see in the majority of the film is something that he's invented, and there lies the key to Fassbender's performance. Fassbender most of the time plays the part in a very exact, seemingly too exact, fashion as though Jobs is on some other wavelength than all of humanity, as he sees the world in a way that no one else can even decipher. Fassbender carries himself in a grand fashion as though Steve Jobs's instructions are not just some obsessive man who is becoming hung up on the slightest detail, such as the perfect picture of a Shark or ensuring that when he does his demonstration that the fire exit lights have been turned off, but instead plays it as though he is indeed an artist who is making these specific demands in order to realize his precise vision. Though everyone else doesn't exactly share Jobs's own enthusiasm, Fassbender is very effective in conveying this personal passion in Jobs that drives him to treat minor details as though they're pivotal to the success of his project. It is almost slightly inhuman at times, as Fassbender very much projects these choices as though it is from a mind above it all.
Of course Jobs is not above it all as he has to deal with many things in his life, which all spring up at different moments during each presentation. This includes professional arguments, that sometimes become personal, with a computer designer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) over various things starting with a glitch, John Schulley (Jeff Daniels) Apple's CEO mostly over Apple's board of directors which rarely approves of Jobs, and Wozniak due to Jobs's refusal recognize the importance of the Apple II. As well as completely personal problems involving his former girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) and his daughter Lisa, who he tries to deny paternity to. Mixed between all of them is Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) who tries to act as a mediator of sorts. Now a challenge arises due to the nature of Jobs's presentation within the film, in that he is this constant of sorts. Fassbender does maintain this as Steve Jobs never fully loses that certain control about himself, yet there still must be more to him to develop any sort complexity to the relationships within the film. Fassbender does this artfully actually by having these moments of variation in his personal wavelength though they are of a loop of sorts. That even with change it always in the end comes back to original center of his personality which is Steve Jobs as "the genius".
Fassbender utilizes this brilliantly in conveying Jobs's real relationship with each person. In his interactions with Andy, Fassbender adapts a considerable passive aggressive streak in Jobs as every spoken word towards the man seems to have a bit of venom beneath it, suggesting his complete lack of empathy for the man. On the other hand with John Sculley Fassbender fashions a more openly aggressive shade to Jobs, though less petty in nature, revealing a much more genuine passion within it as his arguments with Sculley far more directly impact his ability to create his visions. Underlying these moments though Fassbender is very good at establishing an understanding and certain respect. He and Daniels craft important moments of rapport when the two seem to be working together in tandem. In his scenes with Wozniak, Fassbender is quite clever in the way he provides a contradiction in the relationship. Whenever Wozniak calls him out on something or demands any sort of recognition, Fassbender brings an ice cold intensity to Jobs reflecting an immediate defense to try silence any idea that he might be inconsiderate or even worse, wrong. On the other hand when they are not in a direct argument Fassbender's reveals an earnest warmth suggesting so well their original friendship, that has been covered up by the man that Jobs has become.
Now with his personal matters there is perhaps the biggest revelation of the truth behind Fassbender's performance which is to indeed make the whole idea of Jobs a facade. There are a few scenes set before any of the products that might seem a bit slight, but essential to Fassbender's characterization. Fassbender quite bluntly reveals a far more relaxed man who is a guy with a vision to be sure, but there is not that grandeur, his physical mannerisms for example are of an average man. There's a much more endearing enthusiasm as Fassbender shows the real man in these scenes before he became the Steve Jobs we see in the rest of the film. Now with that in mind his personal scenes with his daughter and the mother of that daughter, one can see the most substantial break in that facade as Jobs basically reveals his worst and best sides. In regards to his dealings with Chrisann Fassbender does not hide a general disdain to her, and in this case trying to keep his composure only softens his attitude. Fassbender does not shy away from actually carrying this coldness over to Jobs's relationship with his daughter, where there is an inherent harshness in his detached interactions with her that seem to reveal a especially pathetic part of Jobs as basically a man who won't own up to his own mistakes. Nevertheless there are a few moments where Lisa shows her unconditional love towards him, which Fassbender presents just a momentary break in Jobs that suggests him being actually affected by this. There's even a cruelty within this though as Fassbender makes it so brief showing that Jobs will not even lose his crafted image just to recognize his daughter.
The last relationship is between Jobs and Hoffman whose treated as basically his assistant in the film, this is technically least heated in that both actors portray their interactions as fully comfortable with one another leaving Jobs to leave his crafted image firmly place, with Hoffman gently acting as a moral conscience for him. Now of course the relationships all get into a bit a toss up for the film's act which does kinda fall apart in two ways. The first being many of the relationship fail to build to anything special, Sculley and Wozniak basically go over the exact same things. The other being theu go in the wrong direction, the relationship with Hertzfeld's takes a weird and ill conceived turn. Hoffman suddenly become an extremely loud moral conscience. His relationship with his daughter takes the hardest turn which wants an immediate feel good switch around evidenced most by its choice of song to end the film. This might leave Fassbender in a difficult spot, but I actually don't Fassbender's performance is harmed by the film's ending which is both lacking in change yet wants too much of it at the same time. Fassbender's whole take on the character up until the point has to keep Jobs's persona as a constant, and even the moments of change always revert back to that persona. Now that means he gets away with it, so to speak in, in terms of the lack of change but that still leaves the extreme change for his daughter. Well Fassbender does not succumb to the schmaltz the rest of the film seems striving for in terms of both the writing and direction. In his final scene with Lisa, Jobs finally states that he's "poorly made". This could have been a time to fail the character as he becomes this great guy who admits fault, but Fassbender does not do that. He instead shows it to be the same sort of momentary glitch of the facade that he portrayed beforehand in his interactions with Lisa. Fassbender reinforces this by returning to his usual self when basically tries to appease his daughter by boasting about some new ideas he has. Fassbender's performance contradicts the film, but its the right thing to do. Fassbender stays true to his portrait of Jobs, which is as a man fighting with himself, not to do the right thing, but rather to become the icon he wishes to be.