“Steve Jobs” Couldn’t Fix Everything
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Back in the early ‘80s when I was publishing a group of computer magazines for Scholastic, I made numerous sales calls to Cupertino, California, to visit the headquarters of Apple. It was clear the employees held Steve Jobs and co-founder Stephen G. Wozniak in awe. Later I met John Scully, the one-time Pepsi-Cola exec who ousted Jobs from the Garden of Eden.
Turns out, Scully wasn’t the serpent. Jobs was.
Jobs had founded Apple in 1976 with his pal Woz. They started in a garage. By 25, Jobs was worth $100 million. Forbes puts his final net worth at $5.5 billion.
His biographer Walter Isaacson described him as the “creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.”
Isaacson’s book is the basis for the new movie titled “Steve Jobs,” currently playing at Tropic Cinema.
The biopic -- directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and written by Aaron Sorkin (TV’s “West Wing”) -- gives us Michael Fassbender as Jobs, Seth Rogan as Woz, and Jeff Daniels as Scully.
Structured more like a theatrical production than a film, we get the story in three acts: Talky, rapid-fire Sorkin-esque cross-dialogue that takes place backstage prior to three major product launches (the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998). It’s like being behind the scenes of the digital revolution.
To give us visual cues of the technical advancement during this 16-year period in Jobs’ life, cinematographer Alwin H. Küchlerthe filmed the three sequences in 16mm, 35mm, and digital.
However, if you want to get a better picture of Jobs’ creative genius, you should have caught the excellent documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” which played recently at the Tropic. Comprised of interviews with the real people, it offers more hardedge facts.
Here, you’re going to get the story of Steve Jobs, the flawed but gifted man. An egotistical narcissist, he was inspiring but not very unlikable.
The film turns the spotlight on Jobs’ reluctant relationship with his illegitimate daughter Lisa (played by Peria Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo and Makenzie Moss at ages 5, 9, and 19).
He denied his fatherhood, but named a computer after her. A court-ordered paternity test proved that Lisa was his daughter, but he only agreed to pay $500 a month child support. Ironically, Jobs himself had been abandoned by his own biological parents.
In the movie, his assistant (played by Kate Winset) says, “When you’re a father ... that’s what’s supposed to be the best part of you, and it’s caused me two decades of agony. Steve ... that it is for you ... the worst. It’s a little thing ... it’s a very small thing. Fix it.”
Fassbender does a good job of playing Jobs, despite his own GQ image. Wearing signature black turtleneck and blue jeans, Steve Jobs was at heart a counterculture hippie.
After dropping out of college to go study Buddhism in India, Jobs worked briefly for Atari, having got the job by passing off a computer game created by his pal Steve Wozniak as his own.
“Steve didn’t ever code,” says Woz. “He wasn’t an engineer and he didn’t do any original design...”
Woz single-handedly had developed the 1976 Apple I, and was the primary inventor of the 1977 Apple II. Jobs oversaw the development of the computer’s case. The Apple II became one of the first highly successful mass-produced personal computers.
The two pals split in 1985, with Wozniak selling most of his Apple stock. That same year John Scully forced Jobs out of the company in a difference over management style. Jobs was an inspiring leader, but not very easy to work with. As we know, he later returned, rescuing the company from near bankruptcy after having made a new fortune from Pixar, a company whose technology he purchased from George Lucas (“Star Wars”).
“What do you do?” challenged Wozniak. “You’re not an engineer. You’re not a designer. You can’t put a hammer to a nail. I built the circuit board! The graphical interface was stolen! So how come ten times in a day I read Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?”
“Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra,” said Jobs.