Year Released: 2015
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen Kate Winslet
(R, 122 min.)
Put down your smart phone. Let go of your turbo mouse. And take a look behind the curtain at the man largely credited for giving them to you. It’s not exactly a pretty picture.
Turns out our tech genius farmed out a lot of his work. It is the other Steve, Steve Wozniak, played by Josh Rogen in the film, who did most of the work in that famous Los Altos, California, garage where the first Apple computer was born. And when Jobs (Michael Fassbender) goes on to roll out the next generation, the slick Macintosh, he won't even deign to acknowledge the hard working Apple 2 designers who supplied some 70 percent of the company’s profit.
Seeing himself as a sort of symphony conductor, Jobs claims that he brings all the instruments together to create harmony under him.
But it isn’t anything near to harmony we see on the screen that chronicles the rollouts of Jobs' big innovations in 1984, 1988, and 1998. At best what we have behind the scenes is controlled chaos, with Jobs as an almost monomaniacal tyrant threatening and abusing most of his staff.
The new Macintosh must be able to say “Hello” at its launch, but something has gone awry. Furiously looking for the specialized tools to open up the ailing machine, his staff predicts only a 1 in 6 chance of getting Mac to vocalize. The more the pragmatic voices urge Jobs to move on, the more determined he is. In his vision, the ‘Hello” humanizes the mechanical box. To bad there are no software adjustments for its human founder.
If his chief programmer cannot get the voice to work, Jobs declares he will introduce him by name to the thousands seated at the auditorium as the sole reason for its failure.
The more cynical of you may not be surprised that Jobs was more a marketer than a creator, but then what do you say when you learn that his wildly optimistic sales predictions fizzled spectacularly, that Macintosh continued to bleed cash while the plain Jane Apple 2 kept chugging along?
Adding insult to injury, we find Jobs is a dead beat dad, too, refusing to acknowledge paternity for his daughter Lisa, until the five-year-old sits down at the Mac and creates a MacPaint picture for daddy and thereby wins his heart, or what suffices for one,
Of course, I am probably being as hard on Jobs as he was on his staff, but you get the picture, even if I don’t produce it on MacPaint.
The film unfolds like a well-structured three act play, each new launch an act. We learn bits and pieces of history with flashbacks to fill in any voids. Michael Fassbender plays Jobs with just the right amount of cool detachment and obsessive vision. Kate Winslet expertly disappears into her role as the long suffering personal assistant who tries to keep her boss from self annihilation, all the time trying to stop him from lighting up the rest of the flock hovering nearby.
Josh Rogen, despite his online rants in real life, is moderately sympathetic as early collaborator Steve Wozniak, but his continued pleading to have Jobs acknowledge the Apple 2 staff begins to wear thin after about fourteen years.
Actually, it is Wozniak’s confrontation with Jobs over their first unit, which Jobs insists be closed to other platforms, that is their more interesting dispute. The other Steve wants more portals so owners can customize their computers by linking with other devices. Jobs will not agree, and goes on to insist that the computer should never be opened by owners either. (Thus the frantic search for the specialized tools to work on the malfunctioning voice at the Mac launch.)
The fixation on this closed system perhaps offers us an apt metaphor for Jobs the person as well. Not comfortable with other people or their ideas, the visionary paved his own lonely path. Was that lonely tyranny the reason behind his success or something that limited even greater fruition?
Enjoy with a salute to Apple with this delicious Spiced Warm Apple Cider recipe just in time for fall and the upcoming holidays.