As I am writing this review from a laptop made by Toshiba, using the Microsoft OS Platform, I am clearly not a Mac guy. I don’t own Apple products, no iPhone, no iPad, no Apple TV, no iTunes and certainly no window decal of the iconic Apple symbol. I don’t discount the innovations of Apple and their founder Steve Jobs had in creating the products they did. I just never bought into the idea that their sleek looking products were going to change my world. The vision that Steve Jobs had when he came up with the products that we never knew we wanted or needed was nothing short of genius, creating and innovating products that were better than the competitions and marketing it to us as a lifestyle device.
What’s sad is that this movie falls into the trappings that are the hallmark of Apple’s products. It’s big, grandiose, a flashy veneer, and like any Apple product, there will be a second gen model that is better than the original. Jobs is too ambitious in what it wants to be, but it also isn’t sure what it truly wants to be either. Director Joshua Michael Stern tackles the life of Steve Jobs, who is played by Ashton Kutcher, and tries to cover the entirety of Steve’s time starting and running Apple, to his ousting in the mid 80’s and his heralded return a decade later. This monolithic time span doesn’t allow for any real growth, just a series of scenes centered around Apple launch products that showcase Jobs as this rebellious asshole who has a vision that no one else can fathom, often leading the viewer down this path of either canonizing him or demonizing him.
This is altruistically the main problem with Jobs. The film goes back and forth between showing Jobs as this dick of a human who alienates his partners, cuts off his friends who helped build the company, tanks projects because of his striving to be perfect and spoils the bushel of apples of his achievements. Then the movie tries to balance this out by showing his starving artist, tech guru as an innovating leader, someone who can’t be constrained by normalcy. His drive and ego are given a stage in the film where we see these flashes of brilliance and leadership from such an innovative person, but the movie goes from the extremes of says “kicking a basket of kittens with his brutish behavior” to “game winning coach speech”. Stern and the writers of the film don’t know where they want to fall into the spectrum of portraying Jobs, rather they demonize him at some points then turn around and try to make him into this saint who made the iPod. The tone swings to both spectrums of good and bad, never finding a balance in the movie.
Trying to capture his entire time at Apple is also another fault this movie attempted. The movie starts out with this over dramatic presentation of the iPod in 2001, then going back to his humble beginnings at Reed and the startup of Apple in a garage with Steve Wozniak, played perfectly by Josh Gad. Then the focus jumps to highlight moments of the companies life span, from the Apple 1 board, to the creation of Apple II, the LISA OS, Macintosh, CEO changes, The 1984 Apple Commercial and his eventual ousting from the company. These are the focal points of the movie which the narrative then wraps itself around. It’s more about the company Apple, than it is about Steve Jobs. It’s weird to think that a movie about Steve Jobs isn’t really about him, but rather his involvement with the company and their products. This is one 2 hour commercial for how innovative Apple is!
Now let’s talk about the acting and actors, mainly the head scratching choice of Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs. Not for nothing, but Ashton certainly looks the part, that much is certain. Kutcher went method in his portrayal of Jobs from the walk and mannerisms of Steve himself. But the acting is done with a capital A, which might also have to do with the dialogue and writing of the script. Every line of delivery in this movie from Ashton is written as if he is delivering a keynote speech about the next iteration of an Apple device. EVERY. SINGLE. LINE. Subtlety goes right out the damn window since the director and writers can’t stop themselves from having to remind the audience at how amazing an orator and presenter he is. My favorite character moment from Ashton and company is the transformation from acid tripping garage computer builder into the stern, shrewd dick innovator he is made out to be. After a fight with his girlfriend about her new pregnancy and him being the father, Ashton goes into a bed room, throws a tantrum and then TUCKS HIS SHIRT INTO HIS PANTS. This signifies the new Jobs, the one who will be known for his sneakers, jeans and black tucked in turtle neck. That’s how you know things are changing for Steve.
The secondary cast is what makes up the best parts of this movie with Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak, who is one of the most enjoyable things about Jobs. Everyone is cast perfectly, but none of the secondary characters really get their moments to shine save for Gads, Mulroney, and Simmons. Everything else is sacrificed and lost to pump up the narrative of Apple and not the development of the main character. A perfectly cast movie does not equal a great movie; there is no soul in this one.
Overall Jobs misses the mark at really diving into the complexity of a man who changed the tech world. A complex individual is never really explored, just glossed over in favor of advancing Steve Jobs to the point in his life when he records the Think Different campaign, which is a very important moment in the advertising of Apple and start of their rebirth. Jobs doesn’t have the hardware to make it a compelling feature film. It lacks that focus and drive that is associated with the Steve Jobs and it loses focus on what it wants to accomplish, rather just giving the audience what they think they want to see. It feels like a misguided rush job, a made for TV movie that was cast perfectly, but not with the right acting chops. The long run time of the film also highlights the scattershot coverage of Steve Jobs and Apple’s rise to power, letting news clips and ancillary items do the exposition.
Knowing that there is a second Steve Jobs biopic coming out with Aaron Sorkin writing the script based off the official, approved biography, I would certainly wait for the second generation Steve Jobs movie.
Rating: 2 iPod’s out of 5
By Nick Guzman