A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Steve Jobs -- based on the same-named biography by Walter Isaacson -- is a fascinating, exhilarating, controversial look at the titular computer genius (played by Michael Fassbender). While Jobs is portrayed here as a visionary, it's clear that he could be very difficult to work with; the film also paints a fairly harsh picture of him as a father to a daughter he initially denied (a depiction that some of those who knew him personally have taken issue with). Expect several loud arguments, expletive-riddled rants (including "s--t," "a--hole," "goddamn," and "f--k"), some social drinking, and many scenes lovingly showing Apple products.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
STEVE JOBS follows the titular computing genius/visionary during three important product launches during his storied career: 1984, for the Macintosh, 1988 for NeXT, and 1998 for the iMac. It's a rise-fall-rise story, one that's already familiar to many and has been told often --in the book by Walter Isaacson on which the film is based, in countless magazine articles, and even in other movies. This film, directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin (whose unmistakable soliloquies pepper the movie), continues the deification of Jobs, even as it seeks to humanize him.
Is it any good?
Steve Jobs marries the genius of its director and writer, but it's not impervious to their faults. Boyle gives the movie his signature kinetic energy, imbuing what could have been slow, talky moments with a sense of urgency, which is heightened by Sorkin's unmistakable whip-smart, whip-fast patter. But these are precisely the film's shortcomings, too; the pace is so frenetic that it almost forgets to let viewers take a breath. And while Jobs' relationship with his daughter, Lisa -- whom he once denied -- anchors the film, by the end it feels somewhat heavy-handed. In the meantime, we're left to try to figure out the genius of Apple products and why consumers took to them. The film might have been better served if it had spent a little less time with the former and more time with the latter. (Some argue that it also would have been better served if it had been truer to events as they actually happened; the film has drawn controversy over Sorkin's supposedly fairly creative interpretation of some aspects of Jobs and his actions.)
All of that said, be prepared to be impressed by Michael Fassbender; he may not look much like Jobs or display his specific mannerisms, but he certainly seems to have bottled the man's intensity and relentless commitment to his vision. Fassbender and the rest of the cast -- including Kate Winslet as Jobs' trusted confidante/colleague, Joanna Hoffman -- operate like a tightly oiled machine. It's not perfect, but Steve Jobs, much like the man himself and his products, is fascinating.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the near-cultish devotion that both Apple and Steve Jobs generate: What do you think inspires it? Does Steve Jobs contribute to or question that devotion?
Is Steve Jobs portrayed here as a good person? How does the movie balance all the sides that make him, like any human being, multi-dimensional? Would you consider him a role model? How accurate do you think the movie is to who he was as a person and how he lived his life? Why might filmmakers decide to make changes to real events?
Does owning i-devices and Apple computers make you more interested in seeing the movie? How does the movie make you feel about Apple and Jobs -- loyal to his vision? Critical of his treatment of friends and colleagues?
The movie's main iffy content is strong language; do you think the film would have been as effective with less swearing? Why or why not?
- In theaters: October 9, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: February 16, 2016
- Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 122 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language
- Awards/Honors: Golden Globe
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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