Living/working with a genius is no easy task, as is made very clear in the film Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay based on Walter Isaacson’s book with the same title. From the way the dialog is written in the film, it clearly reflects Sorkin’s style of rapid-fire conversation and arguments that speed by too fast to give them any thought. In fact, that is much of the film, with Steve (Fassbender) having no-holds-barred repetitive arguments with his closest associate, Joanna (Winslet), his daughter Lisa and her mother Chrisann, his creative partner Wozniak (Rogen), board chair Sculley (Daniels), and many, many others. Sorkin’s mark is also in snappy one-liners: “The very nature of people is something to be overcome.” “Things don’t become so because you say so.” And the best, spoken by the grown-up Lisa about the new iMac “looking like the inside of Judy Jetson’s Easy Bake Oven.”
From the beginning, we get the impression that for Jobs, it’s all about him. He has a maddening way of responding to an assertion with an argument a few degrees off the topic. To his credit, however, he apparently developed some insight into himself and made some positive changes across time.
The film covers only the period of time when he and his team are launching the first Macintosh product (1984) up to the introduction of the iMac (1998). In between, Steve was fired by his board and started new companies, but then rejoined Apple later. Time is marked by switching back and forth between three product launches and Jobs’ relationship with his daughter, whom he initially denied until he saw an aspect of himself in her (her facility with a computer at age 5). This back-and-forth between personal and professional at the nerve-wracking times of launches was not a good choice on the part of the filmmakers; it’s too frenetic.
Fassbender seamlessly captures the character he plays, and I was most impressed with his skill in showing Jobs at his most sensitive, when someone (usually Joanna, but also Sculley) gives him a perspective on himself that he is ripe for or touches him emotionally, as when his young daughter Lisa (Moss) spontaneously gives him a hug. He grows silent, withdraws into himself, and almost—but not quite—sheds a tear. Other times, when someone is railing against him, his face is completely impassive.
Winslet is critical in helping carry this film and we admire her art and skill, as well as her character Joanna (a composite of three women), who was probably key in holding Jobs together and keeping him grounded. She was just what he needed in smarts, friendship, emotional support, and basic values, which he sometimes seemed to lack. Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen in supporting roles epitomize the professional struggles Jobs had with his colleagues, and clearly illustrate the ambivalence that was characteristic of all of his relationships shown in the film.
I found the film very interesting. Despite having some motivation to read Isaacson’s well-received book, a New York Times best seller, I actually never did. Hopefully, the film is a good rendition of it, showing a truly remarkable man who played a significant role in bringing so many people to the technological age we’re in, but who had his share of human faults. Amazon says he “revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.” Wow!
A tale of Apple well told.