OP-ROB RATING: ALL-STAR
The most recent biopic of the Apple icon Steve Jobs is directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “127 Hours”) and written by Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”). The film is simply titled, “Steve Jobs” and stars Michael Fassbender in the lead role. The majority of “Steve Jobs” takes place in three, approximately one-hour windows in 1984, 1988 and 1998, right before the launches of the Macintosh 128k, the NeXT Computer and finally the iMac. The theme of chaos before each launch is crystallized when Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) sighs and tells his colleague and confidant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), “It’s like five minutes before every launch everyone goes to the bar and then tells me what they really think of me.” Several flashbacks are sprinkled throughout the film, including the iconic founding of Apple in Jobs’ parents’ garage in Los Altos, California, as well as the “firing” of Jobs after the commercial failure of the Macintosh.
Within the scaffolding of these three major events, "Steve Jobs" narrows in on three different relationships, each of which reveals a definitive piece of the main character. These three people are John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), the former CEO of Apple; Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), a fellow co-founder of Apple; and Lisa Brennan (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss), Jobs’ daughter.
The Sculley and Jobs relationship is one of rival ideologies. Sculley is trying to run a company the produces some form of profit, while Jobs is more focused on what he believes to be the future. Jobs’ ideals are made clear through his unrelenting devotion to a “closed system”, denying customization of the Macintosh, NeXT and iMac computers. Sculley understood at the time of the Macintosh’s release, that a closed system fatally inhibits sales. This is just one of the many examples of Jobs’ futuristic vision getting in the way of immediate financial success of the earliest Apple computers. (You say “one of many examples” – are there others in the movie?) In the scene where Jobs is voted out by the shareholders in an ultimatum, Jobs exclaims, “I sat in a garage and invented the future because artists lead and hacks ask for a show of hands."
Another major facet of the film is Jobs’ friendship with Steve Wozniak. Throughout the film, Wozniak seeks recognition from Jobs for his part in starting the company as well as creating the Apple II computer. The Apple II was the company’s first commercial product that had been funding the Macintosh. Jobs had very little to do with its design and function and refused Wozniak a public acknowledgement at the launch of the Macintosh in ‘84. Before the launch of the NeXT, Wozniak and Jobs have a heated conversation in the orchestra bay of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. At this point in the story, Jobs has gained incredible fame and is recognized as a genius while Wozniak remains unknown. Feeling slighted, Wozniak lashes out at his friend saying, “You can’t write code. You’re not an engineer. You’re not a designer. You can’t put a hammer to a nail. I built the circuit board… What do you do?” Boyle and Sorkin uncover another piece of Jobs’ persona when he responds, “I play the orchestra. And you’re a good musician. You sit right there (pointing to an empty chair). You’re the best in your row.”
Finally there is the relationship between Jobs and his daughter, Lisa Brennan. In 1984, Jobs refuses to acknowledge any relation to the little girl, citing a “twenty-eight percent chance” that her father could be any man in America. In the scene before the iMac launch in 1998, it is revealed that Jobs has refused to pay Lisa’s college tuition fees. This aspect of Jobs’ life is the most complicated and raises the most questions about his moral standing and legacy. However, in the film’s dramatic culminating scene Jobs seems to come to terms with his daughter and they share a tender moment together.
"Steve Jobs" presents a muddled picture of a man most people want so desperately to celebrate and admire. The facts of the film have been hotly disputed by Jobs' former friends, colleagues and family. However, in a biopic such as this do the details matter as much as the attitude? Every human being who has had the opportunity to use an Apple product is aware of Steve Jobs' brilliance and innovation. What Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin have done with "Steve Jobs" is make us aware of his complexity. Whether or not the drama is 100% accurate, "Steve Jobs" is an immersive and intriguing exploration into the character of the most influential businessman of the past five decades.