This is a level 2 guide, suitable for moderately experienced groups. Steve Jobs is rated 15 for strong language.
Warning: Contains plot spoilers
The Scoop – A snappy, pacy drama that’s got far more to offer than just surface gloss
Three different years: 1984, 1988, 1998. Three different product launches. Behind the scenes, self-described tech genius Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) gets ready to wow the world.
He argues – with everyone. With his right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), the only person who isn’t intimidated by him. With Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who wants Jobs to publicly recognise the contributions of others. With his old boss and father figure John Sculley (Jeff Daniels). With Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), who is struggling to convince him that her daughter Lisa (Makenzie Moss/Ripley Sobo/Perla Haney-Jardine) is his. And eventually, with Lisa herself, as she takes him to task for all of his personal failings.
I know very little about Apple, about computers, design, or about Steve Jobs himself. I am somewhat bored by the endless stream of films about troubled white male geniuses who we’re supposed to automatically see as heroes. I have very mixed feelings about the work of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. And yet… I loved Steve Jobs.
When it comes down to it, I love films which are about people – in which, regardless of what genre we’re in, the story has space to let its characters breathe. I want to see films which have interesting things to say, and which have a movement of ideas, not just of action or of plot. Steve Jobs ticked all of these boxes for me. I was expecting witty, rapid-fire dialogue – that’s Sorkin’s staple – and the visual flare which is the trademark of director Danny Boyle; but I wasn’t expecting to feel so involved and even moved by the story. I’ve no idea how much of it is true to life, and in one sense, it doesn’t matter. Hollywood biopics are myths, every bit as designed and constructed as any fiction. This one is a beautiful piece of design.
They won’t know what they’re looking at or why they like it. They’ll just know they want it. – Steve Jobs
- Did you enjoy the film, and why or why not? How much did you know about Steve Jobs and Apple before going in, and did this affect your reaction to the film?
- Why do you think that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin chose to structure the film in such an unusual way, instead of giving a broader overview of Jobs’s life? In your opinion, did this approach work? Were you caught up in the drama?
- Several people who knew the real Steve Jobs – including John Sculley and Pixar president Ed Catmull – have questioned his portrayal in the film. How important is it for a film like this to offer a ‘true to life’ portrait? Do questions of authenticity affect your view of the film, and why or why not?
- How did you feel about Jobs, as presented by the film and played by Michael Fassbender? Do you think the film tries to make us like him, or admire him, or forgive him for his failings? How much sympathy – if any – did you have with him and his way of doing things?
God sent his only son on a suicide mission. But we like him because he made trees. – Steve Jobs
- How did you feel about Joanna Hoffman, and her relationship with Jobs? Is it unusual to see this kind of relationship between a man and a woman portrayed on film, and why might this be?
- Should artists and innovators always pursue their own vision, even if it’s costly and nobody seems to want or understand it? In what sense do we need artists to be leaders in society? Will true innovators always experience misunderstanding and rejection?
Artists lead and hacks ask for a show of hands. – Steve Jobs
- What did you make of Steve Wozniak’s assertion that ‘you can be decent and gifted at the same time’? Do you think that Steve Jobs sets out to prove this thesis, or to disprove it? Why is our culture so fascinated by the archetype of the ‘difficult genius’?
- How does the film portray Jobs’ relationship with Lisa, and how does this develop over time? In what sense does she represent the sum of his flaws and failings? How did you feel about the way this relationship resolved?
- How do we see Jobs self-mythologising throughout the film? What are the benefits of this kind of self-belief, and what might be some of the pitfalls? What does he mean when he confesses that he is ‘poorly made’? How can we know whether the story we believe about ourselves is true to reality?
I’m not impressed with your story. – Lisa