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Movie Review

He named it Lisa.

The name was an acronym, Steve Jobs told the world—an abbreviation for "Local Integrated Software Architecture." Released in 1983, it was Apple's top-of-the-line product. But Jobs' vision came with a visionary's price: $9,995. That was enough to buy a new car back then. It sold abysmally, but the technology formed the foundation for what Jobs believed would be a game-changer: the Macintosh.

It's introduced in the splashiest way imaginable—through a 60-second Super Bowl commercial directed by Ridley Scott, one that people still talk about today. The machine itself features a disarming all-in-one design, a graphic interface and a little gizmo called a "mouse." Moreover, it costs just $2,495—a price low enough to be within the realm of the modern middle-class family.

And when Steve Jobs pulls it out of the box for the first time on Jan. 24, 1984, it literally says "hello" to the world.

But just before the Macintosh takes its first digital bow, Steve shows it to a 5-year-old girl backstage.

She's the daughter of Chrisann Brennan, Steve's old girlfriend. She'd been conceived when the two were together, but Steve refuses to acknowledge the girl as his. He denies it again, to Chrisann's face, unmoved when she tells him that she's just applied for welfare, that her daughter's sleeping in a parka because they can't afford to pay for heat. It's just the latest round in a longstanding war—she begging for recognition and financial support, he denying responsibility. Steve is changing the world, and he doesn't have time for this nonsense. He can't be bothered by a little girl.

A girl named Lisa.

She draws a picture on the computer, and Jobs is strangely moved. And when Lisa shyly asks, "Can you teach me more things on the computer?" he doesn't say no.

But the audience is stamping its feet, the Macintosh is ready to be unveiled. It's time for Steve Jobs to get on with changing the world. Lisa will have to wait.

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Positive Elements

Steve Jobs, genius though he might've been (he died in 2011), is a flawed protagonist in this movie that bears his name. He's a terrible father early on and, sometimes, an ogre to work for. But moviegoers are encouraged to respect his vision—his belief that computers could be more than toys for hobbyists or even tools for accountants and engineers. He believed that they could be beautiful, intuitive things, and he wanted them to be widely available—not just so he could make scads of money, but because he honestly believed they'd change our lives. And, in fairness, he's not always a jerk.

After that uncomfortable encounter with Chrisann and Lisa in 1984, Steve stops denying his paternity and begins spending time with his daughter. In fact, she's backstage with him again in 1989 when he's about to introduce his next big thing (literally, the NeXT computer). When he suspects that Chrisann is mistreating Lisa, he demands she become a better mother (though not, as we'll discuss later, in the best of ways).

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says unflattering things about Jobs to the press after Jobs gets fired from Apple, Steve forgives him and actually defends him. But if anyone's the moral core of the movie, it's Wozniak. "You can be decent and gifted at the same time!" he tells Jobs, pleading that Steve recognize all the hard work that others put into Apple's success.

When Steve's relationship with Lisa goes on the fritz again, others step in to help her. Engineer Andy Hertzfeld gives $25,000 to pay for her Harvard tuition. And Joanna Hoffman, Jobs' longsuffering PR representative, threatens to quit unless he patches things up with Lisa. "Fix it," she says simply. "Fix it."

Spiritual Content

Steve was adopted, and we hear that his birth mother demanded he go to a family that was wealthy and Catholic. He did not, and—at least early on in his career—he expresses what appears to be antipathy for Christianity. When Joanna asks if he must alienate everyone he meets, Jobs says that the only thing that matters is what he creates. "God sent His son on a suicide mission," Steve says snidely, "but we like Him because He made trees." We hear a comment about the creation of the world—and Steve's "role" in that endeavor. We learn that Chrisann spent $1,500 to get her house "blessed."

Sexual Content

Steve and Chrisann fight over sexual insinuations in what he told the press about his supposed paternity of Lisa. He asks Joanna why they never slept together; Joanna reminds him that they never loved each other. Jobs seems to purposefully mispronounce the name of a former co-worker, turning it into something crude.

Violent Content

Accusing Chrisann of throwing a bowl at Lisa's head, Steve seems to suggest he can have her killed. He mimes shooting himself. There's a joking reference to Time magazine being a cover for an assassin's guild. The famous 1984 Macintosh commercial features someone tossing a sledgehammer into a screen.

Crude or Profane Language

A couple dozen f-words. Close to 10 s-words. We also hear "a--," "b--ch," "h---" and "p---." God's name is misused a handful of times, twice with "d--n." Jesus' name is abused four or five times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Joanna makes a joking reference to dropping acid. To celebrate the launch of the Macintosh, Apple CEO John Sculley shares with Jobs a 1955 Chateau Margaux (a French wine that can now cost several thousand dollars a bottle).

Other Negative Elements

Jobs fudges on some of his demonstrations. For the Macintosh, he hooks up the voice demonstration to a more powerful computer (knowing he'd fix it on the Mac before he actually shipped it out). And when he introduced his non-Apple computer NeXT, he privately admits that it doesn't even have an operating system: The only thing it can do is demonstrate itself.

Jobs cools his feet in a toilet.

Conclusion

I edited my high school newspaper on an Apple II, my college paper on a Macintosh. When I saved up for my first personal computer, I had my eye on a Mac, and my home has never been without an Apple computer since. I have a MacBook in my work satchel, an iPad on my nightstand, an iPhone in my pocket. My mother's maiden name was MackIntosh, for cryin' out loud. As far as I'm concerned, Steve Jobs was a great man.

But being a great man does not make you a good man. That is a harder, subtler task—and a more honorable one.

People are complicated, and I'm sure the real-life Steve Jobs was more complicated than even this well-crafted movie allows. Here he serves as both hero and villain—an idealistic visionary who believed computers could make people's lives better, and a profane, egotistical tyrant who believed that computers were, in many ways, better than people.

"The very nature of people is something to overcome," he says.

He made computers friendly and approachable, the movie suggests, because he was anything but. He created machines people could relate to because he had a hard time relating. He crafted closed systems—where he could control everything from the hardware to the software to the way the trash can looked on the screen—because, as an adopted child who was returned by his first set of adoptive parents, he was tremendously insecure.

"I'm poorly made," Jobs admits to his daughter.

That's not true, of course. Flawed, yes. Fallen, certainly. But Christians know that we are all wonderfully made. The smooth, cool efficiency of the latest iPhone can't compare to what—no, to who—we are. Our nature is not something to overcome, but to celebrate.

"What you make isn't supposed to be the best part of you," Joanna says. She's right. Lisa doesn't need a great man in her life—a man who can change the world with a point and a click. She needs a good man, a good dad.

Perhaps Steve sees that by the time this movie comes to a close. Perhaps he realizes that Lisa—the one made of blood and flesh, experience and story—is the Lisa he should've loved all along.

Oh, and yes, movies are a lot like people, too. Great ones are not always good ones. Steve Jobs, rated R as it is, serves as an example of that.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs; Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman; Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak; Jeff Daniels as John Sculley

Director

Danny Boyle ( 127 HoursSunshineMillionsThe Beach)

Distributor

Universal

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

October 9, 2015

On Video

February 16, 2016

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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