Fassbender gives a brilliant, electrifying performance. Its fast, its brutal and it is an enthralling movie.
There are only two historical figures who will never be redeemed or have movies made about their lives explaining the psychological factors, i.e., their lousy childhood, cold mother/alcoholic father combo, or class stigma which made them so mean. And these two gentlemen jointly hold another nefarious distinction: After they died, no child was ever given their first names again.
Judas Iscariot and Adolph Hitler.
Hollywood biographical films are all whitewash. THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING was constructed to be an award winning film. With both Jane Hawking and Stephen Hawking visiting the production and involved in the making of the film, all the really ugly stuff – and there was plenty – was removed in favor of a romantic fairy tale.
Do you know what was missing from the 2004 film, RAY, based on the life of Ray Charles? He was married twice and had twelve children with ten different women. How sympathetic would the female audience be about a man who had so many children with so many different women? These women were not sister-wives living all together in one big house. The filmmakers had to put in the well-documented heroin use but a menagerie of children was deemed unacceptable.
What do you do when writing a screenplay about a famous person who is widely known as a bully, a narcissist, selfish and cruel? How do you keep the audience from hating him? Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is so skillful that while presenting the monstrous Steve Jobs, he gives his subject an Achilles Heel – his daughter Lisa.
Director Danny Boyle takes Sorkin’s structured three acts and gives us an unvarnished exposé of Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender).
Fassbender is brilliant, electrifying, and totally committed to revealing the arrogant Jobs in the way he talks and holds his body. He captures the hubris of the self-appointed visionary. Fassbender has even changed the cadence of his voice, making it softer and with a slight sing-song edge. I am a huge Fassbender fan (SHAME, A DANGEROUS METHOD, HAYWIRE) and STEVE JOBS will give him the huge audience he rightly deserves. I believed Jobs when it was Fassbender screaming he was not Lisa’s father.
Thankfully there is no boring back story about Jobs’ garage. When we meet Jobs, he has already been anointed a messiah, a visionary, and the creator of computer life. Everyone agrees, he has changed reality. We meet the satellites that constantly orbits The Great Man. Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet) is ever present and he defers to her. She appears to be the only person who can even talk to him, no less talk back to him. Jobs only appears human when dealing with Joanna. He doesn’t hate women – only his sour former girlfriend Chrisann (Katherine Waterson).
Movie Chrissan is mousey, a constant intruder begging for money and always crying. Real Life Chrissan just did not have the right lawyer. All billionaire Jobs had to do was give her $300 a month. Movie Chrissan was smart enough to continually bring Lisa to Apple and eventually, after much screaming about not being her father, Movie Steve begins to care for the child. Movie Steve finally accepts her as his daughter. She is the only person he runs after and is worried about.
It’s the 101 of screenwriting: The protagonist’s “arc.” He or she has to change, has to move forward.
Jobs wanted nothing to do with his daughter. Jobs insisted he was sterile and denied paternity of his daughter Lisa for years. Lisa and her mother ended up living on welfare. Forced to submit to a DNA test, Jobs still refuted the positive results. After all, it was only 94.1% positive. Eventually Jobs accepted his daughter but said her mother had “stolen his genes.”
Real Life Steve reconciled with Lisa when she was nine years old. He legally altered her birth certificate, changing her name from Lisa Brennan to Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), is meek and such a nice guy that Sorkin could not show how Jobs really treated his oldest friend without losing the audience’s interest his subject. The other enablers are Apple CEO John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), and engineer Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Jobs short-changed his best friend on a bonus. While working at Atari, Jobs recruited Wozniak’s help to build a scaled down version of Pong. There was a big bonus involved in getting it done quickly and efficiently, and Jobs lied about how much money was involved, pocketing the majority of the money for himself.
Sorkin has Jobs tell Wozniak he will always have “free pass” with him. Wozniak is given the coup de grâce speech that he never gave in real life. He yells at Jobs, telling him, “What have you done? You never wrote a bit of code, you never built a machine.”
He never gave one of the earliest Apple employees’ stock options. Daniel Kottke was one of Apple’s first employees and was even a personal friend of Jobs — the two traveled around India together in 1974. But for some reason, Jobs never set him up with stock options. David Holt, Apple’s Vice President of Engineering, confronted Jobs with this, saying, “Whatever you give him, I will match it.” Steve said, “Okay. I will give him zero.”
Like I said, there has got to be a reason Steve Jobs was so cruel, especially in dealing with Lisa. Sorkin has Jobs rant about his origins. His mother, with his father’s consent, gave him up for adoption. The adoptive couple gave the baby back after a month. He was then placed with a blue collar couple, Paul and Clara Jobs. His birth mother did not want her baby with this couple and took them to court.
Clara told 17-year-old Chrisann that she “was too frightened to love [Steve] for the first six months of his life … I was scared they were going to take him away from me. Even after we won the case, Steve was so difficult a child that by the time he was two I felt we had made a mistake. I wanted to return him.” In time, Jobs birth parents married and had other children. For an adoptee, this is especially offensive.
Two mothers rejected him and a third wanted to send him back after knowing him a few years and yet he became Steve Jobs. Adoption isn’t about not being wanted or unworthy. It is just the way things go sometimes. Jobs proved it is okay to do this by rejecting Lisa.
Jobs eventually has a “come to Jesus” moment. Meaning that he got old enough to know that he needed to patch up some things for his legacy. Posterity must be served. Carping about being unwanted and given away – not once but twice – and then placed with an “unfeeling mother” who also wanted to give him away, was not the way he wanted his life defined. While Jobs refused Chrissann’s demand for $25 million for herself and $5 million for Lisa, he did settle his affairs, acknowledging his adoptive parents as his only true parents, meeting his sibling and forming a relationship with Lisa. He never spoke to or met his birth parents.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at email@example.com.