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A Career Developing Computers: Steve Jobs

Updated on November 7, 2015

The rise, fall, and return to prominence at the company he co-founded serves as the basis for the biopic Steve Jobs. The movie begins in 1984, as Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is about to debut the first talking computer, the Mackintosh. He and his marketing leader, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) learn that the technogy to make the Mac talk isn't working. An irate Jobs demands that engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) make the computer talk. Under threat of public humiliation, Herzfeld cheats a little. Also before that product launch, Jobs gets confronted by former girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), who brings her daughter Lisa (Mackenzie Moss), whom Chrisann claims he fathered. She wants monthly support for herself and Lisa. Steve denies the paternity, but Joanna tells Steve he should notice the resemblance. When he sees Lisa has used a computer to create some art, he agrees to buy them a house and provide them with support. When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) wants Jobs to give the Apple II team credit, Jobs refuses. In spite of the problems, Jobs has a successful presentation.

Sales, however, fail to meet expectations, as prices didn't fit many budgets. As a result, Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) fires Jobs. Jobs then goes and forms NeXT Computer, with Joanna going with him to the new company. By this time, Jobs has accepted that Lisa (now played by Ripley Sobo) is his daughter, though the relationship with Chrisann remains contentious. Wozniak and Sculley come to the NeXT launch, wishing Jobs the luck they think he will need. NeXT proves more successful than the Mac, while a Jobs-less Apple releases a device called Newton that fails and costs Sculley his job. Apple purchases NeXT and names Jobs its CEO. Problems again arise as Jobs prepares to introduce the iMac. College-aged Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine) has issues with her dad that include typical teenage behavior, allowing Chrisann to sell their home, and getting money for her Harvard education, which Andy has quietly paid. These issues lead to an ultimatum from Joanna as journalist Joel Pforzheimer (John Ortiz), a fixture at Jobs product launches, takes note.

The movie Steve Jobs, which is based on Walter Isaacson's biography, is a compelling portrait of a man who demanded the best - and the nearly impossible, at times, from those around him. He didn't want to hear about technical glitches as he and those around him developed new technology - he wanted the new technology in working order at their unveiling. The underwhelming sales of the Mac didn't deter Jobs from moving forward and creating NeXT. As the computer technology evolved, so did his relationship with Lisa. Daddy-daughter disputes grew more costly as she aged, but at least they developed an acquaintance. She didn't really get treated any differently than anybody her father trusted at Apple, who always had to be careful about what they said and did. The screenplay adaptation by Aaron Sorkin has a tone familiar to those who know a bit about his writing. Sorkin highlights smart people interacting with other smart people, for better and for worse. Director Danny Boyle never gives viewers a dull moment as a man learns to be a man on a personal level while opening the doors to home computing to consumers of all sorts. The film, though, doesn't really touch on the marriage that Jobs had and maintained during the later chronological stages of the movie.

Fassbinder shows a great mix of drive and detachment from humanity as Steve Jobs. In an early scene, Steve has a contentious debate with Chrisann over his responsibilities to Lisa, as Chrisann points out the extreme gap in wealth between the two. The scene gives viewers the impression that Jobs would have fought his ex-partner over giving them one extra penny - until he discovers the girl's interest in the PC. He'd made developing his business his main priority - and those who couldn't help him achieve his goal were virtually worthless. His vision of the future was the only one that mattered. Winslet is just as strong as the person who has to make people interested in their products - and remind her boss that product isn't everything. She often seems to have more of an interest in Lisa than the man who fathered her. Daniels delivers reliably as a supportive CEO, and Rogen is effective in a dramatic role as Steve Wozniak, the partner longing for a public acknowledgment from his associate and eventual boss. Stuhlbarg, Waterston, and the young ladies who portray Lisa also make a favorable impression in small roles.

Steve Jobs takes a somewhat unflattering look at a man known as a leader in computer innovation and technology. Jobs may have become rich quickly, but he also persevered against many obstacles, one of which was his off-putting ego. This film shows a man who didn't care about any sort of compromise or challenge to his authority. He led with his vision, and expected everyone else to follow. In his quest to make better products, he needed to reinvent a man who seemed almost as impersonal as the things he envisioned and created. That attitude only started to change when he met a little girl named Lisa, and saw a future that wasn't strictly innovation.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Steve Jobs 3.5 stars. A Jobs well done.


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      Pat Mills 2 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      Thanks Mel. I suppose it's Jobs's very nature that made people skip this one at the box office.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I read the Isaacson biography, which was great, and I look forward to seeing this film. Steve Jobs was a determined man, and great at expropriating the ideas of others, as we see with the concept of desktop icons, which he stole from Xerox. Great review.