By Michael Parnell
The Bible makes it clear. We are all sinners. We all have come short of the glory of God.
In the new bio-pic, Steve Jobs, the tagline for the movie reads, “Can a great man be a good man?” What the movie puts forth is an unflattering vision of who Jobs was.
Few people have impacted the daily lives of people like Jobs. His company is valued at $742 billion and it is the most valuable brand in the world, according to Forbes magazine. This kind of revenue came because Jobs pushed the company forward to make products that enhance and bettered the lives of people. But was Jobs better because of it?
The movie begins with the launch of the Macintosh computer, just after the ad that ran during the 1984 Super Bowl, which got the buzz going for Apple as a brand.
Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is demanding that the tech people get the computer to say, “Hello.” But it will not. He threatens his engineer, Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg). Joanna Hoffman, his “work wife,” follows him around trying to get him to speak to his “baby mama,” Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston). Jobs has not acknowledged his fathering of the daughter Brennan is caring for.
John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), the CEO of Apple, talks to Jobs about the Super Bowl advertisement. Jobs is convinced that Sculley did not like or want the ad.
All of these events swirl around the product introduction. And all the while we see that Jobs may have been a genius, but he was not a nice person. Not the least bit nice.
In between the Macintosh intro and the Next computer Jobs is fired from Apple. We see his founding of a new company and then the rehiring of Jobs as CEO of Apple.
As the events of the movie unfold we discover how unlikeable a person Jobs was. He does not take care of his child. The tactics he uses to get people do what it is that he wants done can best be described as bullying. And he is condescending even to his best friend.
That friend is Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen). In a scene after the firing of Jobs, a confrontation occurs between the two. It starts our as friendly talk, but it turns serious when Jobs asks why Wozniak went to the press and spoke harshly about him.
Wozniak declares he was angry. Jobs never recognized the Apple II team that kept the company afloat while Jobs fiddled with the Macintosh. That was Wozniak’s area of the company. And after the discussion, Jobs looks at Wozniak and tells him that he gives Wozniak a free pass for what has been done.
Wozniak storms back at Jobs about how condescending that was to him. He tells Jobs that Jobs is not an engineer and has no idea how the computers he sells comes into being. Jobs dismisses his friend and walks away.
The Jobs in this movie is always making it hard for people to care about him. He is a fallen person — fallen from grace but also fallen as a human being . He does not have common courtesy to him. Jobs does not seem to understand his own nature, and if he did, this movie makes it clear he did not care.
I really don’t know if I like this movie or not. There were few people on the screen that I had any compassion for. Jobs was a smart person and changed the world, but all the milk of human kindness that he had seemed to have soured.
All of us have something that makes us less than what we should be. We all have things that are hidden to us that glare outwardly to others. One of the tasks of maturity is to discover and remedy these things.
As the movie progressed I did not see the character of Jobs make any real changes. He was still hard to deal with at the end like he was at the beginning.
And that may be why I am torn about whether I like this or not. Good storytelling calls for there to be some transformation in the person at the center of the story. None of that happened here.
Which makes me wonder if none of that happened to Jobs? And if did not, what a shame; such a wonderful innovator who was nothing more than a bad person. Being an innovator may be great to the world, but what if that person never tries to become better at being themselves? That is a sad story.
Rated R for language
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Aaron Sorkin, based on a book by Walter Isaacson
With: Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Kate Winslet (Joanna Hoffman), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), Jeff Daniels (John Sculley), Michael Stuhlbarg (Andy Hertzfed), Katherine Waterson (Chrisann Brennan)