“Steve Jobs” is the modern American genius. Like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, he had an idea and knew what to do with it. Like Gates and Zuckerberg, he made himself incredibly rich, and at a fantastically young age. But unlike them, he was not happy in his personal life, and died fairly young, as well (at 56). Though his legacy in the computer world is unassailable: Apple.
The movie takes us to the moments before three big product launches, though there would be many more. Each time, there is conflict with co-workers about what is possible, and what will work at that moment. Each time, Jobs (Michael Fassbender) wrestles mightily to present the product that he is convinced will be successful, and in this he has almost-unerring instinct. Through it all, there is his capable assistant, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), with whom he obviously has a deeper relationship, though that's not really unfolded for us. And each time, the one person he doesn't want to see, Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) appears, a former girlfriend who absolutely insists that her daughter is his, but he simply does not want to acknowledge that, despite rather conclusive paternity tests, which he attempts to dismiss with geeky mathematical probability reasoning, which sounds depressingly like abdication of personal responsibility.
But it's almost as if Steve Jobs just doesn't have time for anything or anyone other than his personal passion at the moment, the new product, the forward-thinking development that will startle and delight the masses. Jobs likens himself to the conductor of a symphony orchestra, making sure every individual artist and expert is functioning at performance level in order to create the overall effect that is masterfully artistic. From those halcyon days in the garage with Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen) to the techie-talk with Andy Herzfeld (Michael Stuhlbarg) to the frantic boardroom machinations with John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Steve Jobs is always pushing, always sure of himself and his vision, always looking ahead, and never behind. Even to repair relationships in which a little effort could have improved a lot. He was far too focused and driven and purposeful to entertain anything resembling regret.
Yes, Steve Jobs is the modern American genius. You have to admire him. But you don't have to like him.
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Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Mabank, Texas