Movie News & Reviews

Movie review: Apple founder's dark side revealed in 'Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine' + Beaufort County showtimes

"Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" promo image
"Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" promo image

The Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad were innovative, beloved and even revolutionary devices. And Steve Jobs was not a very nice man.

That's the binary message director Alex Gibney presents in his latest incisive documentary, "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine."

Puzzled by the outpouring of grief that followed Jobs' death to cancer in 2011, Gibney set out to explore why the founder of America's richest company was mourned like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon.

A self-assigned myth buster, Gibney told reporters at SXSW he wanted to "offer something of a corrective" to the "hagiography of Steve."

Mission accomplished.

If Walter Isaacson's book, "Steve Jobs," and the other films and books written about Jobs since his death err on the side of deification, Gibney's documentary makes every effort to avoid that mistake.

The film focuses instead on the contrast in Jobs' life — the light and the dark — and on how the darkness affected those around him.

The most moving of these accounts comes from former Apple engineer Bob Belleville, a member the independent Apple team that designed the Macintosh.

"In those three years together I packed in a decade or two of experience. Steve packed in a couple of centuries in his 56 years," Belleville says as tears well. "He did everything he wanted, and all on his own terms. It was a life well and fully lived, even if it was a bit expensive for those of us who were close."

In Belleville's case, "expensive" meant losing his wife and children to the long, hard hours Jobs demanded as head of the Macintosh team. Yet Belleville recalls his time with Jobs like the halcyon days.

And he is not the only one.

"(Jobs) was a study in contrasts," says Chrisann Brennan, Jobs' wife during his early years at Apple.

No incident better exemplifies the potential for cruelty of the young Jobs than his treatment of Brennan when he learned she was to have his daughter, Lisa. Jobs denied paternity, and told others Brennan slept around, and could not be trusted.

Yet Brennan is another victim of Jobs' legendary temper and peculiarity who remembers him first as a dashing genius.

Early in this follow-up to the popular, scalding takedown of Scientology, "Going Clear," we learn Jobs spent his youth seeking a guru. First in India and Japan, and later in industry.

It was in recruiting a corporate mentor that Jobs made the mistake that would lead, at least partly, to his downfall at Apple: The hiring of Pepsi-Cola CEO John Sculley.

Famously challenged by Jobs to "change the world" rather than spend the rest of his life "selling sugar water," Sculley agreed to join Jobs at Apple as CEO in 1983.

Conflicts between the practical, business-minded Sculley and Jobs, who was more interested in innovation, started soon after. In 1985, at age 30, Jobs was ousted from the company he founded.

In the 2015 book "Becoming Steve Jobs," which, unlike Gibney's doc, enjoyed Apple's participation, we are told Jobs was reformed after being kicked out of Apple. That he turned his sights inward, and got past the petulance of his 20s before returning to save Apple in 1997.

But that is not Gibney's narrative. Much of the latter half of the film is spent on Jobs' fascinating 2010 battle with Gizmodo, a tech blog that bought and wrote about a prototype iPhone lost by an Apple employee in a bar.

Infuriated, Jobs threatened legal action, and, Gibney suggests, influenced a special law enforcement task force to knock down the door of one of Gizmodo's employees after the phone had already been returned.

Jobs defends going to the mattresses with Gizmodo, saying it would be against Apple's "values" not to strike back after the bloggers initially refused to return the stolen phone. Gibney, whose narration drifts from impartiality, seems disturbed by this.

Values are also at question in the so-called Apple backdating scandal, which landed the company in hot water with the S.E.C. in 2006 for backdating stock options to compensate employees — namely Jobs.

In Jobs' recorded deposition he tells investigators his feelings were hurt because the Apple board had neglected to offer him adequate bonuses and stock options.

Yes, the billionaire-genius, a titan of Silicon Valley, was unhappy with his compensation.

How can a man who preaches values and seeks enlightenment, Gibney wonders, be so petty?

The people at Apple aren't happy with the film, and I can see why. But they are partly to blame. Little is known about Jobs' personal life and the inner-workings of Apple. The participation of Jobs' hand-selected successor, Tim Cook, or Apple chief designer Jony Ive -- both apparently too busy to participate -- could've softened this portrait.

Set to a rollicking soundtrack that Jobs, an uber-fan of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, would've loved, "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" mixes talking head interviews with archive footage of Jobs to great effect.

Jobs lives again in Gibney's film, but remains elusive. While we learn more about what he did, we aren't much closer to understanding why.

Many have attempted to pin down Jobs, in books, documentaries and feature films. One such film directed by Danny Boyle and written by "The Social Network" screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is set to come out in October. More will likely follow.

But no matter how many layers we peel away, Jobs remains inscrutable.

"Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" is playing at Coligny Theatre through September 10.


Coligny Theater

September 4 to 10

"Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine" (R) 2 p.m.

"Phoenix" (R) 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m.

Park Plaza Cinema

September 4 to 9

"A Walk in the Woods" (R) 11:50 a.m., 2:10 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 6:50 p.m., 9:10 p.m.

"Before We Go" (PG-13) 12 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 7:20 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

"No Escape" (R) 11:35 a.m., 2:10 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 7:10 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

"The Man from U.N.C.L.E." (PG-13) 7 p.m., 9:45 p.m.

"Rickie and the Flash" (PG-13) 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., 9:35 p.m.

"The Gift" (R) 5 p.m., 1:10 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

Highway 21 Drive-in

September 7

Screen 1

"Inside Out" (PG) 8 p.m.

"Minions" (PG) 9:45 p.m.

"Jurassic World" (PG-13) 11:20 p.m.

Screen 2

"Fast & Furious 7" (PG-13) 8 p.m.

"Straight Outta Compton" (R) 10 p.m.

"Vacation" (R) 12:20 a.m. (Sept. 8)

Northridge Cinema 10

September 7 to 9

"The Transporter Refueled" (PG-13) 12 p.m., 2:20 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 7 p.m., 9:20 p.m.

"A Walk in the Woods" (R) 12:15 p.m., 3:25 p.m., 6:50 p.m., 9:15 p.m.

"We Are Your Friends" (R) 12:15 p.m., 4:55 p.m., 9:35 p.m.

"No Escape" (R) 12 p.m., 2:25 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 9:40 p.m.

"Hitman: Agent 47" (R) 2:35 p.m., 7:15 p.m.

"American Ultra" (R) 7 p.m., 9:20 p.m.

"Mistress America" (R) 12:15 p.m., 2:25 p.m., 4:35 p.m., 7:05 p.m., 9:15 p.m.

"Sinister 2" (R) 7:15 p.m., 9:45 p.m.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." (PG-13) 12:15 p.m., 3:15 p.m., 6:55 p.m., 9:35 p.m.

"Straight Outta Compton" (R) 12 p.m., 3:10 p.m., 6:35 p.m., 9:45 p.m.

"Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" (PG-13) 12 p.m., 3:10 p.m., 6:40 p.m., 9:30 p.m.

"Minions" (PG) 12 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m.

"Inside Out" (PG) 12 p.m., 2:25 p.m., 4:50 p.m.

Cinemark Sea Turtle 12

September 7 to 9

"The Transporter Refueled" (PG-13) 11:45 a.m., 2:25 p.m., 5:05 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 10:25 p.m.

"A Walk in the Woods" (R) 11:15 a.m., 1:50 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7:15 p.m., 9:55 p.m.

"War Room" (PG) 1:10 p.m., 4:10 p.m., 7:10 p.m., 10:05 p.m.

"We Are Your Friends" (R) 5 p.m., 10:25 p.m.

"No Escape" (R) 11:15 a.m., 2 p.m., 4:45 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 10:10 p.m.

"Hitman: Agent 47" (R) 11:40 a.m., 2:20 p.m., 7:40 p.m.

"Sinister 2" (R) 2:30 p.m., 5:10 p.m., 7:50 p.m., 10:25 p.m.

"Straight Outta Compton" (R) 12:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 10:20 p.m.

"The Man From U.N.C.L.E." (PG-13) 1:20 p.m., 4:20 p.m., 7:20 p.m., 10:15 p.m.

"The Gift" (R) 11:15 a.m., 1:55 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 7:25 p.m., 10:10 p.m.

"Ricki and the Flash" (PG-13) 11:35 a.m., 2:05 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 7:35 p.m., 10:15 p.m.

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" (PG-13) 12:35 p.m., 3:50 p.m., 7:05 p.m., 10:20 p.m.

"Minions" (PG) 11:20 a.m., 1:45 p.m., 4:25 p.m., 7:05 p.m., 9:40 p.m.

"Inside Out" (PG) 11:35 a.m.