Film Review: Steve’s Job Obliterated His iFriends and iFamily

By Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.
October 18, 2015 Updated: October 23, 2015

Ancient tribal wisdom has it that gods generated cultural, artistic, technological, and spiritual upgrades in humans, by incarnating as humans themselves and walking among us. Demons were thought to be able to do the same thing, using the same method, but contributing an inhibiting effect.

Given the computer technology seismic shift that Steve Jobs caused, in the past he might have been considered a god.

However, the way Jobs cold-bloodedly disowned his own daughter, manipulated people (in his own words: “I’m indifferent to whether people dislike me”), and refused to relinquish even a tiny bit of the thunder he wrested from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, that all doesn’t make Steve Jobs seem too terribly god-like.

Michael Fassbender portrays the pioneering founder of Apple in "Steve Jobs", directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin. Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches spanning Jobs' career—beginning with the Macintosh in 1984, and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998—the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter. (Universal Pictures/Universal Studios)
Michael Fassbender portrays the pioneering founder of Apple in “Steve Jobs,” directed by Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award-winner Aaron Sorkin. (Universal Pictures/Universal Studios)
Jobs saw himself as the conductor of the whiz-bang inventors and cybertechnician team.

‘Steve Jobs,’ the Movie

“Steve Jobs” is basically a three-act play about three revolutionary San Francisco-based cyberproduct launches: the happy-face Macintosh personal computer in 1984, the black-box NeXT computer in ’88, and the tangerine and aqua bubbly iMac in ’98. These “acts” play like a string of movie trailers.

Exacerbating the trailer effect is the fact that there’s too much script from Aaron Sorkin. Having to volley lines back and forth at top speed, like a pingpong match with no pauses to listen and visually pick up on other actors’ cues and expressions, is one of the greatest squelchers of joy in the profession of acting.

(L–R) Andy Hertzfeld ((Michael Stuhlbarg), Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) in "Steve Jobs", directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle. (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)
(L–R) Andy Hertzfeld ((Michael Stuhlbarg), Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender), and Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) in “Steve Jobs,” directed by Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle. (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)

All this time spent prepping for curtain-rise makes “Steve Jobs” very similar to the backstage shenanigans of “Birdman”: lots of hectic running around, last-minute snags, and threats of “Make it happen, or else!” before showtime.

Layered over the techno-glitch navigation and Jobs’s minions’ flop sweat are variations on Scrooge-like themes, such as the two gentlemen from the poorhouse requesting donations, Bob Cratchit asking for family time, and Scrooge’s nephew asking him to Christmas dinner—only to be backhanded in the face with extreme Jobs-coldness. Scrooge was all about the job. So was Jobs.

‘Let a Woman in Your Life’

Backstage, Jobs’s high school girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) asks her now-billionaire ex for just enough money so she and their daughter (Jobs refuses to admit she’s his) can pay the bills and not live in squalor.

(L–R) Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) with daughter Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss) in "Steve Jobs", directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle. (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)
(L–R) Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) with daughter Lisa Brennan (Makenzie Moss) in “Steve Jobs,” directed by Academy Award winner Danny Boyle. (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)

Likewise, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), Jobs’s co-founder of Apple Computer in ’76, keeps popping up backstage requesting some respect and public acknowledgment for the team who helped Jobs get where he got. He does this on every launch. It could almost be a running gag, except it’s not funny. The funny running gag is the fact that Steve knows two guys named Andy and constantly has to ask, “Which Andy?”

(L–R) Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) in "Steve Jobs", directed by Academy Award® winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award® winner Aaron Sorkin. Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches spanning Jobs' career—beginning with the Macintosh in 1984, and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998—the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint an intimate portrait of the brilliant man at its epicenter. (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)
(L–R) Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) and Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) in “Steve Jobs,” directed by Academy Award-winner Danny Boyle and written by Academy Award-winner Aaron Sorkin. (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)

Will Jobs make nice and acknowledge his buddies who helped him? No such luck. Jobs is stone-cold. But he made such endlessly cool stuff, and so we must find out what made him tick.

Steve Jobs, the Man

At one point Steve Wozniak asks Jobs what he actually does, much like Ben Kingsley’s character in “Schindler’s List.” And like Schindler saying “Not the work … the presentation,” Jobs replies using a hijacked idea he got by asking Japanese conductor Seiji Ozawa the same thing: Ozawa said, while the players play their instruments—he himself played the orchestra.

“It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.”
— Steve Wozniak in 'Steve Jobs'

Jobs saw himself as the conductor of the whiz-bang inventors and cybertechnician team. Maybe it was also from the impression of Ozawa’s impetuous, flying, wild-artist hair that Jobs learned to layer a bit of artist presentation over his own cyber-wonkyness. Because without the presentation, he was just a salesman.

And a colossal control freak. (He devised tools exclusively geared to open up a Mac, so no one else could.) Jobs, father of the Apple and iEverything movement that’s been sweeping the globe for decades, knew cybertech pretty darn good (ya think)?

‘Steve Jobs,’ the Cast

Lisa Brennan, Jobs’s daughter, is played by three actresses who collectively function as the emotional heart of the movie. Their wistfulness around their essentially dead-beat dad is palpable.

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) with Lisa Brennan (Perla Haney-Jardine) in "Steve Jobs." (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)
Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) with Lisa Brennan (Perla Haney-Jardine) in “Steve Jobs.” (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)

Kate Winslet plays Joanna Hoffman, Apple’s head of marketing, and the only employee who can stand up to Jobs. Winslet looks and sounds quite a lot like Meryl Streep except that, unlike Streep, her eastern-European accent has a mind of its own and tends to come and go when the mood strikes it.

(L–R) Academy Award® winner Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman in "Steve Jobs." (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)
Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman in “Steve Jobs.” (François Duhamel/Universal Studios)

Rogen as Steve Wozniak has a line, said to Jobs, that sums it up best: “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.”

He must’ve meant “one,” as in, “One can be decent and gifted at the same time.” Because although Steve Jobs had monumental achievements in technology, he was clearly not able to achieve much human kindness. So not a god. Nor a demon. Not even an alien. Just a troubled, brilliant tech-guy with a vision.

‘Steve Jobs’
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Sarah Snook, John Ortiz
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Release date: October 9
Rated R
3 stars out of 5

Mark Jackson
Film Critic
Mark Jackson is the senior film critic for The Epoch Times. Mark has 20 years' experience as a professional New York actor, classical theater training, and a BA in philosophy. He recently narrated the Epoch Times audiobook “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World,” and has a Rotten Tomatoes author page.