- Director:Joshua Michael Stern
- Cast:Josh Gad, Ashton Kutcher, Matthew Modine, Dermot Mulroney, James Woods
- Release Date:August 29, 2013
- Running time:127 minutes
- Film Worth:$14.50
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Without digging into what made modern society’s greatest inventor tick, this well-made biopic still has plenty to offer, especially for newcomers to the myth.
Ever since news of a Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher filtered online, very few have taken it seriously, with some deeming it a rush job attempting to cash in on the emotion and goodwill surrounding the death of the Apple founder in 2011, and other cynics casting it off as something to tide audiences over until the “real” Aaron Sorkin-penned film arrives. But while many were predicting a dud before it even premiered at The Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it’s far from it. jOBS is an entertaining rundown of the rise of this iconic 20th century inventor whose creations utterly transformed the appeal of technology, and will prove most engaging for those who know little about the man behind the products, which are now such a part of our lives. For those already familiar with the story, however, it admittedly feels like something of a missed opportunity, with director, Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote, Neverwas), often more concerned with checking off bullet points than digging into the complexities of its leading man.
To be fair, Jobs’ story is an expansive one with so much to cover, and screenwriter, Matt Whiteley, wisely chooses to open the story with Jobs’ slacker college days. It’s a solid starting point as we watch Jobs take up art classes, meditation, LSD, and trips to India, revealing the soulful and artistic side of a man whose personality seemed to trade in contradictions. Dropping out of college, Jobs teams up with friend and self-taught computer engineer, Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad, who is largely used as comic relief), and the pair manufactures the very first Apple computer kits in his parents’ garage. They receive funding from decent-hearted entrepreneur, Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), which eventually leads to Jobs heading a multi-million dollar company. Internal feuding, however, sparks Jobs’ departure from Apple, and we’re left to watch him reclaim his own company (a drama-packed trajectory that pays dividends) with the story wrapping just shy of the development of the iPod.
In what is undoubtedly his best gig in years, Kutcher gives an impressively committed performance as the legendary inventor and entrepreneur, with the actor attempting to reveal all the facets of Jobs – his brilliance, alongside his flaws – even when the script doesn’t. Jobs was an artist and visionary with the ability to reveal to people what they wanted before they even knew they wanted it, and it’s a thrill to watch him discover and develop devices – along with ways of thinking and communicating – that we now simply take for granted. Kutcher commendably reveals the extent to which Apple products are a direct extension (for better or worse) of their creator, a man striving for absolute perfection, which is evident when he blasts an employee over their indifference toward the tiny details of his products. His obsessive care for the minutiae was his genius, but it was also his undoing, as it alienated so many people.
Admirably, Stern doesn’t gloss over Jobs’ dark side, revealing the man to be controlling, manipulative, and insensitive in both his professional and personal life. We watch as he bullies and fires employees on his quest for perfection, and indifferently throws old friends by the wayside. They’re qualities that also seep into his personal life, with the film touching on his callous rejection of his pregnant girlfriend (Ahna O’Reilly) in university, with Jobs refusing to acknowledge the paternity of his daughter. But while it reveals all these sides to Jobs, rarely does Stern dig any deeper to question exactly what makes this man tick, nor does it look with any nuance at the question of whether emotional withdrawal is a necessary requisite for genius. Instead, Stern seems content to offer glib dialogue as commentary, with the screenplay littered with lines like, “You’re damn good, but you’re an asshole.”
Despite its often unflattering portrayal of Jobs, this biopic ultimately softens the edges a little too much, favouring sentimentality over complexity, and at its most mawkish, it feels a little too much like an airbrushed Apple commercial. With the aforementioned Aaron Sorkin-scripted biopic on the way (which will apparently feature just three scenes, with each centred on a famed Jobs product launch), one can’t help but draw comparisons to The Social Network, which the latter screenwriter also penned. That feature again had a prickly young genius at its core, but it burrowed deep into the mind of that man in an attempt to understand what motivated him, while also questioning the value of the world that he had created. In contrast, jOBS – while a fascinating slice of storytelling, just by virtue of its subject matter alone – too often skims the surface of its subject, and plays it safe and conventional. It’s sadly ironic for a biopic about a man who was a radical thinker and risk-taker.