Steve Jobs was not a very personal man when it came to on-camera interviews. Just a year ago, a seventy-two minute interview shot for a PBS documentary was recovered and released to the public in theaters and on DVD. It was a tremendous little “film,” if that’s what we’re calling it, that, despite short in length, likely gave us the most intimate glimpse at the genius entrepreneur behind one of the most revolutionary companies in history.
With this in mind, it’s not totally surprising that Joshua Michael Stern’s Jobs doesn’t get deep into the psyche and mentality of its title character. It leaves much of his motivations either vague or left to audience assumption. Regardless, this is a strong biopic, despite its notable missteps and instances where it bites off more than it can chew. It looks to detail one man’s rise from aimless and wayward hippie to an uncompromising, determined businessman and – on that note and several others – it succeeds as well as captivates.
Ashton Kutcher plays the revolutionizing man himself, who, in his early days, walked around with no shoes on, shaggy hair, and scarcely showered. He carries around a notebook at all times, detailing artistic ideas and stray invention ideas. His best friend is Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Josh Gad), a chubby geek who begins to construct elaborate computer boards with Jobs when his pal works for Atari. Armed with wit and a competent crew of misfits, they sell several of the units to a local computer shop and attempt to further their ideas of making personal computers and innovative technology into a company.
And thus, Apple is born, the company that pioneered and is responsible for technology such as the Macintosh computer and the iPod, among countless others. The film goes into the tribulations Jobs had with creating the company, and examines him and the company as a whole.
It all starts with Kutcher, who apparently got into the role of Jobs extensively, wearing apparel like the man, reading biopics about him, and doing hours of research to try and emulate his characteristics. His walk is even changed to the forward-posture that Jobs possessed. I recall back in March when the minute long clip of “Jobs” was released to the public, my apprehension towards Kutcher playing the entrepreneur. The clip — which showed Jobs and Woz arguing over the value of a personal computer in the parking garage of Hewlett Packard — showed Kutcher looking nothing like Jobs, leading to believe that maybe he was the wrong person for the role. During the film, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Certain scenes, Kutcher doesn’t look a lot like Jobs, but during some — particularly clean shaven and casually depressed — he looks almost identical.
I would compare him to Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln” and Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady” in terms of how closely he looks to the actual man. Performance-wise, Kutcher is the heart and soul of the film, showing off brazen assertiveness in some scenes, anger and venom in others, and something of human compassion sprinkled here and there. In a way, I’d say he makes everyone here better in their own regard, as clearly Kutcher himself possesses power when in the clothes of Jobs. A lesser-man could’ve derailed the entire project; that I never thought I’d be saying.
It’s Kutcher and the film’s effective storytelling that get Jobs by in one piece. The story, even if oversimplifying in some regards (IE: the effort it took to get Apple known in the public eye), touches on the points it needs to in order to survive as a whole. One of the most powerful and telling scenes is when Jobs is calling company after company, trying to express his ideas of the benefits and abilities of a personal computer and receiving nothing but insanity. This articulates one of Jobs’ main struggles as an technologically ambitious entrepreneur in the seventies. What Jobs wanted to do and what he wanted to create wasn’t a very known, explicitly-detailed commodity at the time. Him, as well as other pioneers such as Bill Gates, had to effectively write the formula and the handbook of the technology at the given time. Now knowledge of computers is found largely on computers, and across America people are building their own computers, inventing their own technology, and getting their ideas out there thanks to the resources and the industry provided and fueled by courageous people like Steve Jobs — that you have to admit whether an Android or an iPhone is in your pocket.
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Watch the video review of Jobs with Blue Jasmine.
Writer Matt Whiteley effectively shows the stress and mental anxiety Jobs experienced during the early years of his life, being a college dropout and being largely unsuccessful trying to communicate his ideas to people who either didn’t understand him or viewed them as irrelevant. The film makes missteps in the vein of oversimplifying situations, or not exploring them too much (Steve Jobs’ company NeXT, which was created after his departure from Apple in the early nineties is brought up just as quickly as it’s forgotten). Not to mention, Jobs’ struggles with his child and relationships are nothing more than a glossed over footnote, as Apple Computers development as a company is placed in the foreground, sort of obscuring the film’s central goal – to humanize the title character. There’s a strong biopic here, even if it is largely on the surface.
Reviewed by Steve Pulaski
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