When the co-founder of Apple alienates both colleagues and family, will he be able to repair those relationships or will his personal demons prevent him?
Before the official introduction of The Macintosh computer in 1984 before a packed crowd, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Jobs (Fassbender) celebrates his latest innovation with the company’s Chief Executive Officer, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), over a glass of expensive wine. But things are not as joyous with Jobs’ other colleagues; his partner and co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) feels as though he and his engineering team are being severely compromised because the people who made a name for the company by building the Apple II are being phased out; he’s also in an ongoing imbroglio with his Director of Marketing Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet). On top of that, Jobs’ ex-girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterston) encounters him with the reality that in spite of Jobs’ public denials, he’s the father of their 5 year old daughter, Lisa.
Despite meeting with great fanfare, The Macintosh fails to meet sales expectations. As a result, Jobs is forced out of his own company and eventually becomes the founder of a competitor, NeXT. Prior to the 1988 launch of their first product – known as The Black Cube – Jobs is once again encountered by ghosts from his past, some of whom are now suing him. Although he is now paying substantial child support to Chrisann, she demands more, but Jobs counters with accusations that she may be an unfit mother. Meanwhile, rumors abound that Apple might buy NeXT – even though the new company’s biggest secret is the fact that their computer doesn’t even have an Operating System yet!
With Apple Inc. now under Sculley’s control, his major product introduction is the a pocket-sized personal productivity tool, The Newton, which uses a stylus to convert handwritten text into computer-readable instructions. Unfortunately, that flops, too, and Apple begins to lose stock value, market share and industry confidence; The Board Of Directors winds up firing Sculley and lures Jobs to return. By 1998, Jobs sees which direction the wind is blowing and invents The iMac, a new version of The Macintosh that’s solely designed to be used to surf The Internet. But when a now college-age Lisa challenges her father over his threat to stop paying her tuition, will the two be able to resolve their differences in time for the official announcement of Apple’s newest product?
Steve Jobs may have been a flawed human but “Steve Jobs” is an excellent movie. For those looking for the complete life story of this marketing genius, you’ll be disappointed; instead, this film offers insights to Jobs’ personal and professional life using three major events: the introduction of the Macintosh at Apple, the introduction of The Black Cube at NeXT and the introduction of the iMac upon his triumphant return to Apple. The choices turn out to be quite appropriate, given that it forces Jobs to confront problems with his family, friends and co-workers.
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has developed a reputation of writing scripts that are dialog-heavy; “Steve Jobs” is no different. At times, the movie feels like a play not necessarily because it has a static feel (although most of the action takes place backstage at different product launches) but more because of its talky nature. During battles with various people, the history behind those fights are revealed in flashbacks intercut with the present-time arguments; whether this was how the screenplay was written or it was an editing choice by Danny Boyle is hard to say. Particularly well-written were the scene where Lisa begs Jobs to let her live with him (little Ripley Sobo is guaranteed to break your heart in this one) and where Woz lays into his former partner (Seth Rogen nails it here).
Prior to the screening, the movie was introduced by director Danny Boyle, who brought screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and stars Jeff Daniels, Kate Winslet and Michael Fassbender on stage. Boyle was both personable and funny, cracking a few jokes; he claimed that the Saturday night screening at The New York Film Festival was The World Premiere of the “finished” version of “Steve Jobs” because after it was shown at Telluride, he decided to re-edit the film, so he considers the one screened here as what will be the final version. Boyle also mentioned that this weekend was Winslet’s birthday, so he had the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to her.