3 Stars – Engaging
Steve Jobs saw himself an artist more than a businessman. Rather than seeing the computer as a product that needed to fit the desires of possible customers, Jobs saw himself as creating a work of art that would enhance and transform people into the customers they should have been. It was this perspective that was both his genius and his nemesis. It is also this polarity that is captured by director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball) in the film simply titled Steve Jobs.
Known for his portrayal as Magneto in the X-Men franchise, Michael Fassbender brings a powerful strength of presence to the role. But what defines Jobs in this biographical tale is the fast-paced dialogue revealing both his intelligence and his drive as he confidently moves his vision for Apple computers to completion.
This telling of his life focuses on Jobs relationships more than the company he founded. Focusing on both his closest business associates as well as his troubled relationship with a daughter he denied was his own we see the polarity that both thrust him into guru status and plagued his personal life. In his business relationships the central characters focuses first on his co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) and then his marketing manager and “business wife” Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). With intense loyalty and yet combustive interactions both of these were in their own way the very people Jobs needed to fulfill his vision. The fact that he was unable to treat them with the dignity they deserved for their loyal contributions borders on abuse and comes from Jobs deeply troubled soul.
However, his self-described “poorly-constructed” soul was most obvious when it came to his relationship with his daughter Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss at 5, Ripley Sobo at 9, and Perla Haney-Jardine at 19). Having met her mother, Chrisann (Katherine Waterston), in High School, their relationship never included marriage and when she became pregnant he denied paternity. Taking him to court Jobs’ paternity was proven at the 94.1% level, but he asserted that this 6% question could mean that 28 million men in America could be her father. The effect this had on his relationship with Lisa is powerfully presented as he became a huge success and yet did little to care for Lisa or her mother.
His self-absorbed distrust of others was also shown in his relationship with Apple’s CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). Wooing Sculley away from Pepsi and trusting him as a father figure, their relationship was destroyed when the company faltered and Sculley and Jobs had a showdown with the board. Although Sculley won that battle he lost the war and eventually led the company into a position where they needed Jobs’ entrepreneurial abilities that could produce the cutting-edge products needed in the expanding world of personal computers and technologies.
It is often true that troubled people have a singular ability to see the world and do great things. That they sometimes suffer interpersonally and end up struggling in every relationship is the journey Steve Jobs took. That we can learn from him is obvious, that he needed loving care is just as clear. It is these lessons that make this an engaging film.
Discussion for those who have seen the film:
- The film presents Jobs pain as an adopted child that fueled the drive to create something that would be a work of art and transform humanity. Do you accept this explanation? Why do you answer as you do?
- His lack of civility and compassion is difficult to watch. Do you believe this strengthened or harmed this presentation of Jobs?
- The moment of confrontation by Joanna requiring Jobs to be reconciled with his daughter implies that he would not have done so without her ultimatum. Do you believe that to be true? Why do you answer as you do?
- Are you an Apple computer person or a PC person? Why did you make the choice you did and how would this film help you understand that choice?