Teri Orr: A bushel full
November 13, 2015
I confess. I LOVE good movies. I love them at home…in my jammies and hitting pause to head to my own comfort station or grab ice cream from my own freezer — maybe with an adult beverage. I do love all that. But even more than all that, I love seeing a movie in a theater — big screen, with the biggest surround sound it was created for and the characters towering over we mere mortals.
Like most humans of my age on this planet I have followed stories about Steve Jobs, both during his too short life and since his passing. Walter Isaacson’s approved biography started out interesting and then lost me in the middle. The first film with Aston Kutcher was kinda just okay but not really worthy of the subject and its wonky, edgy, world-changing, complex character matter.
Enter the new Jobs film, starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels and Seth Rogen. This is a story that flashes back to his start in the garage with his buddy Steve Wozniak and Jobs tinkering with some other nerds, and progresses until Jobs retakes the company he was fired from years before. It is a story of devotion and abandonment and brilliance and innovation and something dark and Shakespearean that feels like, "revenge has a long memory."
You see the geeky guy in the double-breasted suit with a bowtie long before you get to the familiar black mock t-neck and jeans. And the story takes place in a window of time that ends in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac. Our iPhones, iPads and iPods are still in the future.
Jeff Daniels as Sculley, the corporate guy who comes from Pepsi to grow Apple, is the kind of father figure we’d all attach to and want advice from. And three actresses play Jobs’ daughter until we end with the college-age young woman who is fresh-faced and confused and annoyed to have such a famous father be so completely unavailable to her for most all her young life.
Here’s what I took away from the film: Aaron Sorkin is a god, writing dialogue for we mere mortals to try and make sense of — people and technology and emotions and the intimate connections between them. See "A Few Good Men," "The West Wing," "The Social Network" and of course, "The Newsroom." Sorkin, for all his own flaws, and maybe because of them, writes for real people with conversations we all wish we had been brave enough to engage in.
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By the end of the film, I felt like I understood how genius is often fueled by abandonment and a few truisms rattled around in my head days later — details matter. Intention always matters. Stick with your gut. New means completely new — not "a tiny tweak" new. And always, always, always, being the smartest bear in the room is a lonely, lonely place to be.
Kate Winslet has a line toward the end of the film, after all she has experienced for nearly two decades being with Jobs as his "work wife," and she is frustrated beyond measure about his lack of attention to his daughter who he took years to acknowledge was his own.
A line that goes something like, "Being successful shouldn’t be about what you create but how you love." And anyone who stayed too late at the office, worked on weekends on projects, or had another business dinner out one more night, understands that pain on a micro level. We never see Jobs’ wife and children from his marriage later in life and we are left to wonder if he ever figured out balance… and joy.
There is a scene, early on, where Jobs and Woz are arguing (the kind of dialogue that Sorkin does so brilliantly) where Woz questions, on the stage of the San Francisco Orchestra before a product unveiling.. just what does Jobs DO for the company? Woz points out who writes the code and who designs the machines and who internally connects the dots. Jobs compares himself to a famous conductor — in that all the individual instruments are just soloists until the genius of the conductor brings them altogether to make beautiful music. This scene may have never happened, by the way — such is the liberty allowed in fictional film — but it feels like something Jobs could have said and that makes it ring true. Jobs saw the big picture and the long picture which created a kind of beautiful music with his work, but he was socially inept. The kind of star/showman conductor the orchestra secretly hates.
It has been over a week since I tucked myself in a theater on a stormy day and let the film wash over me. And I keep thinking about the brooding Jobs, confused by the actions of lesser minds around him and yet plotting to overtake those same minds with a long-term revenge game. A hollow human. With a mind like no one else. A kind of awe inspiring, brilliant machine with the emotional connections missing from the hardware.
I am still processing the film and that alone tells me it was good. Consider the device in my pocket I rely upon to connect to both those I work with and love. A tool like all tools that only becomes powerful by how we use it. Any, every, day — like Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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