This was a good week for unlikable protagonists bossing people around in movies, as evident in the new films Steve Jobs and Burnt. I was also going to include Our Brand Is Crisis into this review, but then I watched the trailer for it again and realized that I really, really don’t want to pay to see that movie because it looks painfully bland. So I didn’t.
What are the basic plots of these films?
Steve Jobs takes place in a universe where 100% of dialogue is a witty quip, in which the guy named Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is preparing for three different product launch presentations (The Macintosh, the NeXT, and the iMac) at three different points in his life, as all of his friends and (potential) family decide to come backstage and ambush him with their fears and concerns minutes before he has to give an important speech. He handles most of his problems by insulting people to their core and/or paying them off.
Burnt is the story of Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), a superstar American chef who was a big deal in Paris back in the day; before drugs, booze, and women made him self destruct. The start of the film sees him schucking (literally) a million oysters in New Orleans as a form of self punishment for being a jerk. Now rehabilitated from drugs, but still a major jerk, Jones goes to London to start a new ‘straunt and get a third Michelin star.
Wow, these main characters seem like real pieces of work!
Oh, they definitely are. In fact, it’s kind of humorously coincidental that I’m lumping these two movies into one review, because they are both about huge pricks who are dominating their industry through insults and quotable one-liners. I originally planned on writing a Steve Jobs review last week, but never got around to it; and then Burnt came out this weekend, and I came up with that review title up there that I’m slightly proud of, and the rest is history. But yeah, back-to-back weeks of smarmy, unlikable protagonists.
Could you even say that you could describe both of the movies with a single synopsis?
Well, let’s see…
A narcissistic entrepreneur who has been at the top of his game (played by an actor that’s probably more handsome than the character deserves) returns to his craft after being exiled. There, while using unrealistically clever word play and frightening power, he attempts to turn the products in his industry into an unexpected visual art form that will wow customers and earn massive critical praise for being different. And while he has made mistakes in the past, whether it be betraying his friendships, forgetting his integrity, or losing touch with the ones closest to him; our smug hero overcomes his professional downfalls by discovering the personal gain that comes with appreciating the family values he never thought he needed.
Which movie am I talking about there? Which ever one you say, I’m just going to say I was talking about the other one so that I win no matter what. IT’S BOTH MOVIES. YOU LOSE.
Does anyone come off looking good in these movies?
Yeah, in Burnt, pretty much anyone not named Adam Jones has redeemable qualities. I guess that’s the point, though. It’s not a movie about everyone reaching Jones’ heights, it’s about him attempting able to level himself with the rest of humanity. Which is justifiably cliche.
And Steve Jobs is the same way. All of the characters not named Steve Jobs had rationale for their actions. But Jobs himself (at least the character portrayed in the film) was unfathomably unlikable. Steve Wozniak, though, comes off pretty good as a jolly fat guy who really just wants Steve to acknowledge that the Apple II computer team is decent at what they do. He was played by Seth Rogen, who doesn’t do a Woz impression as much as he just does a friendlier, non-vulgar take on a Seth Rogen character. HWUA HWUA HWUA HWUA HWUA AHEEEEEE URHWRUA HWUA HWUA [that’s a Seth Rogen laugh].
Well, since you’re naming actors now, who else was in these movies?
Burnt also had Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman, and Sienna Miller; who is a person I’ve seen in a bunch of movies, but I constantly forget who she is or what she looks like.
Steve Jobs had a pretty good ensemble. There’s Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, an Apple marketing executive who didn’t have a strong accent in the 1st act, but definitely did in the 2nd and 3rd acts. Jeff Daniels played a variation on his Newsroom character. Michael Stuhlbarg portrayed Andy Hertzfeld, a member of the original Apple team, played with all the subtlety of a Revenge of the Nerds cast member.
But what of Jobs himself, did Fassbender make sense for the role?
Hmmm… I think that The Assbender did a great job acting, as usual, as he’s probably one of my current favorite actors. But I don’t know if I would have pegged him to play Steve Jobs (he seems too… intense?). Now, in all honesty, I really like using Apple products in my personal and professional life, but I realized that I don’t really know anything about Steve Jobs outside of broad strokes. But I can’t imagine he was the giant SOB (or maybe *as* giant a SOB) as Aaron Sorkin painted him with that screenplay. And with my knowledge of Aaron Sorkin and his repeating Sorkinisms (video below), I can’t help but think that Fassbender was less playing Steve Jobs as he was playing Aaron Sorkin walking around his condo yelling penetrating banter at his furniture over and over again, or whatever his creative process is. “Hey blue ottoman… We will know soon enough if you are Leonardo da Vinci… or if you just *think* you are. Ooooo, that’s good, Aaron. Better write that one in my next three projects.”
You watch a lot of Food Network, was Adam Jones a good representation of a cool chef?
Well, you can’t really base his character on a super famous chef on TV, because most of those people are giant knobs like Bobby Flay. He’s more like one of those small time chefs who have knife tattoos and respect/recognition only by people well versed in some kind of real culinary scene. He’s more Jimmy Bannos Jr. than Guy Fieri. Though, if someone made a Guy Fieri biopic (easy casting assumption: Josh Gad), I would watch it for the obligatory food porn scene, shot in gloriously executed cinematography, of Guy pouring two gallons of donkey sauce on a deep-fried pineapple pie with chicken wing crust and edible chop sticks made of teryiaki onion wedges. Here’s a line from the trailer: “I love everything about kitchens. The heat. The racing stripes on the walls. The constant loop of Smashmouth playing over the intercom. It’s the only place I feel like home.”
Were there alternate titles for these movies?
The cooking film was originally titled Chef, but Jon Favreau already made a film with that title. So then it was called Adam Jones for a while. But ultimately the filmmakers settled on the third and final boring, uncreative title of Burnt. Burnt is a *third* revision to the title. Was a major criteria for this title that it be bland? I would have at least suggested something like Violence and Oysters if I had been in the production meeting.
On the other side, I heard a rumor, and it may not be true… But the original title of the Apple genius’ biopic was Steve Jobs of Mars. But they thought it would be more appealing to a broader audience as just Steve Jobs.
What quote would you use in your review if Michael Fassbender and Bradley Cooper starred opposite each other in the same movie?
“You’ll get Assbended until you Coop your pants!”
Nice. What would you rate these things?
They were actually pretty equal to me. I’d give both of them 7.5 out of 10’s. Solid C’s. Though if you’re asking for a recommendation, I probably liked Burnt a little better personally, but Steve Jobs has a broader appeal and moves at a much faster pace. So… Go see Steve Jobs, I guess? But honestly, these are both movies I will probably forget I that I watched a couple of months from now. However, they do have their immediate, throwaway entertainment value. But you know what they say, this isn’t movie camp, it’s not important that everyone gets to play. (that will only be funny if you watched that Sorkinisms supercut) And you know it.