Posted on Friday, August 16th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
[This is a reprint of a review that originally ran in January, at the Sundance Film Festival. Jobs is in theaters today.]
While Steve Jobs changed the world with his innovations and forward thinking, the first biopic about him, Jobs, does not. It is a competent retelling of Jobs’ life, beginning with his college years, and running through the period when he regained control of Apple in the 1990s.
Ashton Kutcher plays the title role and does a good job at making you forget there’s a big star under the beard and glasses. It’s the script by Matt Whiteley, however, where the cracks begin to show. Jobs [the new official spelling of the title] is so hell-bent on cramming all these seminal moments into one film, it never builds much context around them. We never feel like they mean anything or understand the “why” about the big moments. The film loves to tell us things, but never quite explains any in a satisfactory way.
The resulting product is an entertaining but flawed take on the man who co-created Apple. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, Jobs had its world premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Friday night. Read more after the jump
At the core of Jobs is the man himself. The film starts in 2001 with the introduction of the iPod. It’s a triumphant moment. Steve Jobs has just changed the world. The score by John Debney blares through the speakers and it’s almost like the movie is over before it even began. How did Jobs get to this moment? We flash back to his college days and go from there. The iPod is always looming, though, and the film proceeds forward with such incredible forward momentum that while we see major events in Jobs’ life, we never quite understand why they happened, how he felt about them, or how he impacted him going forward. It’s all about getting to that next thing.
The film is like a Mac product line in that way. The instant one point is made, it’s on to the next/better one. Structure and pacing are improved by this regimen, but not much else is. Kutcher gives a solid performance as the main character, losing himself in Jobs’ voice and mannerisms. However, at times, those slip away and he once again becomes Ashton Kutcher, usually in the loud moments where Jobs has to scream at someone. This kind of overblown melodrama happens a lot and, again, is an example of the film never really delving under the surface.
As a person, we’re led to believe Jobs is a leader and an innovator, both of which come through in the movie. We also get the sense he’s kind of an ass and there are plenty of scenes to back that up. However, while we see Jobs do and say bad things, we never quite have time to process it. The audience is forced to simply accept this character trait instead of relating to it.
Even with those flaws, Jobs tells a phenomenal story and that helps keep the whole thing together. Huge scenes filled with corporate jargon turn exciting and tense. Details from the history of the computer are popped into every corner. The supporting cast, such as Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, Lukas Haas and J.K. Simmons do their best with one-dimensional roles. And Josh Gad, as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is the other stand out besides Kutcher, giving his character emotional depth in a limited amount of screen time.
Apple fans are going to be very mixed on Jobs. On one hand here’s the story they’ve been dying to see, on screen, and it looks great. But the film feels slight because it tries to do too much. The effort is there and the film is entertaining, but it’s feels like the PC version of the story instead of the Apple.
/Film rating: 5.5 out of 10
Jobs will be released in theaters April 19.