In 1954 Alan Turing was poisoned by a half-eaten cyanide-laced apple, found lying by his side. In director Danny Boyle’s bio-pic “Steve Jobs”, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is interviewed about the coincidence of this event and the design of the Apple logo. We just picked something friendly sounding was his off the cuff answer, but nothing is coincidence in this beautifully scripted story. It is R-rated for the Aaron Sorkin dialog that is in turn ‘crisp, sour, rotten and delicious’. The movie is a creation myth, written by a skeptic. This film is really more theater than cinema and as such is told in three acts. Each act unfolds backstage in real time, in the minutes preceding three famous Jobs product launches: Macintosh (1984), NeXT cube (1988) and iMac (1998).
Jobs: “Musicians play their instruments. I play the orchestra.”
As beautifully written as this movie is, Jobs the man is portrayed as a very ugly person. This is reflected in his treatment of his inner circle, as represented with this cast, at best Jobs deals out condescension and at his worst outright hostility. Among his colleagues, Jobs’ attitude towards Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) is an example of the former, “My furry little friend.” Conversely and especially after his ouster from Apple, Jobs holds nothing but thoughts of cold rage for Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). He enjoys eventually doing to Sculley what was done to him. His special contempt though is reserved for Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterson), his estranged girlfriend and mother of his disavowed daughter, Lisa Brennan, who is played by a triumvirate of actresses. We first meet them backstage at the Macintosh opening, where they have come to beg for money. They are on welfare, while Jobs is worth more than 400 million. The character, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is the only person that Sorkin allows to effectively speak truth to power, but that is only allowed to further her role as Jobs’ foil.
Wozniak: “It’s not binary. You can be decent and gifted at the same time.”
In full disclosure, I’m a PC and not a Mac, although I do own an iPhone, but even that concession is probably too late to change things. More importantly, I have worked for a long time in a high-tech engineering environment that is analogous to that of Apple’s. I know Steve Jobs or at least his kind. I work with them, for them. They are people who are quite adept at feeding their egos at the expense of others. Late in the film there is a hallway shot. The camera is following Jobs down it, when from the opposite direction comes about the only person of color in the movie. He slides along the wall, past Jobs and utters a greeting, “Hi, Steve.” What caught my attention about this person was not so much his color, which stood out, but that through some trick of cinematography he was out-of-focus, while Jobs was not. Like Steve could not possibly see him.