“Steve Jobs” a Brilliant Mind But a Deficient Human Being
By Skip Sheffield
Steve Jobs may have had a brilliant mind, but as a human being he was pitiful.
This paradox is driven home time and again in “Steve Jobs,” a documentary film by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “127 Hours”). The script is by Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network,” “Moneyball”) based on a book by official biographer Walter Isaacson, who previously did a biography on Henry Kissinger.
“Steve Jobs” begins with a flashback video of writer/scientist Arthur C. Clarke, speaking of a computer future. I’ll bet even Clarke did not realize the extent computers would take over every aspect of our lives.
The action proper begins in 1984 in Cupertino, California, headquarters of Apple. Jobs (Michael Fassbinder) is preparing to introduce the revolutionary iMac to the public. A perfectionist and obsessive-compulsive, Jobs wants every minute detail perfect. There are glitches.
“We can’t run the intro,” a techie wails. “We need the tools. It’s a closed system.”
A closed system is something completely incompatible with any other system, such as the vastly more popular Microsoft Word. But the graphic capabilities and quality of the Mac are dazzling, and particularly attractive to high-level designers.
Trying to keep Jobs cool is his long-suffering assistant (and perhaps more), Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, almost unrecognizable in dark hair dye). Joanna best knows how to deal with Jobs’ wild mood swings, his irrational demands and his demeaning insults.
Helping Jobs create the nuts and bolts of the Mac was his Apple co-founder Steve Woznik (Seth Rogan). Overlooking the entire project was John Scully (Jeff Daniels), a former PepsiCo executive.
A solid, practical business model was never Jobs’ strong suit. In addition to being a unique product, the Mac was much more expensive than any other computer. With 35,000 units sold instead of the 1 million projected and two factories closed down, Jobs was fired from his own company in 1985.
There is family drama too, with a girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) whom he never married and who bore him a daughter Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine) Jobs denied fathering. No, he was not such a nice guy.
Ultimately Scully was removed as CEO and Jobs returned to Apple and made the products even better; with the PC, Pixar Animation, iPhones, tablet computing and digital publishing to his credit. What is left out of this story is Jobs’ humbling by his own mortality when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He died Oct. 5, 2011 at age 56, but not before making a kind of deathbed confession of his regrets. You can look it up. It is very moving.