Whether you worshipped him, complete in your “Cult of Apple” designated polo-neck, or thought he was a child-labour law abusing copycat, there’s simply no doubt as to the indelible legacy Steve Jobs left behind. His vision of creating the most user-friendly devices around is what brought about the current state of smartphones and MP3 players.
With that in mind, it’s especially disappointing that Jobs, one of two upcoming biopics focusing on the late Apple CEO, completely forgets one of the technology leader’s most critical requirements: an engaging human interface.
The – pardon the pun – job of bringing the persona that is Steve Jobs to life falls on the usually goofy shoulders of Ashton Kutcher, and with a bouncy gait, no shoes, questionable body odour and some strategically styled hair, he recreates the young Jobs in an eerily accurate fashion. Well, at least visually, as there’s unfortunately no getting around the fact that Kutcher is simply not the world’s greatest thespian. He does admirably in several scenes, but when the drama gets turned up a notch, he just fails to find that spark that convinces you that this is Steve Jobs the human being, and not just Michael Kelso from That 70’s Show wearing a Steve Jobs costume.
And that truly is the problem of the entire film, as it does a great job of recreating the look and feel of Jobs’ life, but then when it comes time to dig a little deeper beneath the surface, to get down to the real meat of the matter, it totally spazzes out. It’s never afraid to show that Jobs is not the saint that some would make him out to be, to show that he could be an outright asshole at times, but then it totally refuses to explore the origins of said asshole-ishness.
Even more unforgiving, is that while it bravely shows Jobs at his worst – verbosely refusing to acknowledge his daughter Lisa as his, or getting ousted from his own company after a string of failures, for example – the film’s idea of showing how he overcame these black hat moments, is to simply not. Show us anything, that is. It’s all fade to black, skip forward a couple of years, oh wow everything’s peachy in the Jobs household so let’s move on to the next scene.
And with this frustrating approach, director Joshua Michael Stern and screenwriter Matthew Whitely robs the film of any sense of emotional connection, of it’s human element, leaving this a grievously glossed over recounting of one of modern tech history’s most interesting men. And not even an accurate recounting either, as the film takes several liberties with events, much to the well publicized ire of the real life people being portrayed on screen.
Now we’ve seen plenty of biopics over the years take liberties with their source, but at least they did it for dramatic effect. Jobs changes facts and leaves out huge chunks, without really having a clear vision of what it’s actually trying to say about Jobs and the empire he built, lost and then triumphantly rebuilt again into a tech powerhouse.
But it’s not all bad news though. In the early days of the tale, when a young, determined Steve Jobs and a wild-haired Stephen Wozniak (Josh Gad, responsible for one of the film’s few truly touching scenes) first crawled out of a tiny garage with a dream and idea, Jobs is really at its best. Kutcher and Gad both capably convey from the screen that infectious passion and fervour that turned Apple into the company it would one day become. And although most of their co-stars – Lukas Haas, Victor Rasuk, Nelson Franklin, Eddie Hassell, Ron Eldard; as the other founding members of Apple – don’t have much more to do than reminding us that yes, hairstyles in the 70’s and 80’s were indeed bad, they all handle their meagre lot admirably. Dermot Mulroney, as original money man Mike Markkula, gets a lot more to chew on and appropriately gets those chompers chomping, turning in a very likeable performance.
But alas, just likeable performances are the most praise I can truly give this. Stern directs with a journeyman’s eye, and never gets it out of middle of the road territory. Until that is when the film hits its completely unexpected dead end of an ending. Ending well short of some of the most dramatic moments in Jobs’ life, namely his battle with cancer, the film just suddenly stumbles to a stop without any fanfare, like Stern and co had just suddenly realized that they’ve hit their running time quota, so roll credits and call it a day. And in a film about a man who was all about making sure that every part, every tiniest detail fit precisely, the non-ending, like most of what comes before, is just a clumsy effort.
Last Updated: October 16, 2013