JOBS Home Video Review

It was a well-known fact from the time we first heard mention of battling Steve Jobs biopics that the one starring Ashton Kutcher and a creative team of newbies wasn't going to be the one that broke any new ground or would even get anyone too excited. While Kutcher's turn as the founder of Apple Inc. and innovative mind that brought us the Macintosh, iPod and iPhone wasn't cause for much alarm it isn't for a lack of effort on the actors part. It is clear that Kutcher studied the mannerisms and vocal tones and inflections of Jobs with a considerable amount of obsession and in some ways the performance feels like a tribute as Kutcher is more a fan giving the most flattering of interpretations than a man attempting to bring another mans story to light in the truest form. That said, the script is not particularly kind to Jobs as it highlights his ego and his consistent inability to get along with others unless they are strictly abiding by his ideals, but Kutcher's performance has a consistent aura that he ultimately knows what's best floating around him. No matter if that is actually how Jobs was or not, that is how we'd like to think of him. He held the secrets of what we really wanted and was able to package them in ultra-portable containers so is there any other option than to believe he was onto something we weren't? The film likes to think this way and so for two plus hours we are treated to what adds up to little more than a cliff notes version of the rise, fall and unavoidable return to the spotlight of Steve Jobs that all biopics tend to follow. This wouldn't be so bad if the film did more than barely scratch the surface, but we are given little more than the facts that are already well known to anyone who was a fan of his or knew anything about his philosophy or his products. There is no real substance or justification as to why he strives so hard to diverge from the beaten path or prove others wrong. There is one line concerning his real parents abandoning him only to never be mentioned again to which he responds by doing the same exact thing to his child while nothing close to a parallel is drawn. Director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Matt Whiteley have taken what could have been an exceptional subject and a beyond incredible journey of a man not necessarily likable, but who demanded to be listened to and molded him to fit the outline of every redemption story. The world loves a comeback kid, this is true, but the accomplishments of Jobs the man deserve more than jOBS the movie, delivers.

Beginning in 2001 (with Kutcher dressed to look like a much older Jobs than what he actually was that year) we see the ruminations of the mythology of Steve Jobs within himself as he walks through the back hallways of Apple headquarters having lined the staircases and  rails with employees who cheer him on. He is introducing the world to the iPod, but that is all he says about it: the name. He goes no further into why this is such a great product (I know we all know why, but that's not the point), but instead states little more than the name of the product and receives a round of applause. This wouldn't be as big a deal (and I didn't initially think much of it) but its when the same thing happens again another forty-five minutes into the film where Jobs, this time in 1978 at the first annual West Coast Computer Faire announces the Apple II and immediately receives the same kind of praise giving little information about the product other than its name. While I vaguely understood why this would be such a revolution to the audience listening as a spectator who wasn't alive at this time and likely did not comprehend the importance of what Jobs and his team were presenting to the audience. Still, we take these things at face value as Jobs more or less becomes the PR guy for the stuff his partner and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (the always-reliable Josh Gad) is coming up with. They find an investor in Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) and things begin to grow into the company we know and love today, but not before they fall on their face and get rid of their pioneer only to eventually re-discover themselves and get back to the roots of what made them popular in the first place. Following this standard structure allows for Kutcher to interpret a nice arc and again, his dedication to the character shines through the rather tepid material that has all the workings of a satisfying drama, but given the precedent the actual human being who inspired the story has set it comes up short of anything more than a distraction and even worse, gives little insight into what motivated this guy to become someone who justifies a movie being made about him.

Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) and Rod Holt (Ron Eldard) work
in a garage developing the earliest Apple products.
That there isn't much more that comes to mind when thinking about the film only signifies how forgetful it all really is and while the performances from Gad and Mulroney stand as strong filler both of their roles are understated in that they do little more than serve the greater overall point the film is trying to make about Jobs. They don't come off as authentic people, but more as functions to serve the story that happen to be in physical form more than anything else. It really is somewhat disheartening to see a film that could really be something epically interesting turn out to be so complacent and nothing short of a missed opportunity to capitalize on what could have easily been crafted into a complex and interesting character study. I'm interested to see what the reported film Aaron Sorkin is penning turns out to be and if it will focus more on the inner-workings of Jobs power trips and the reasoning for his drive more than a few throwaway lines. I can only imagine the endless scenes of dialogue and intense conversation that eventually find its way around to a singular statement or piece of insight that will offer reasoning for the way Jobs drove himself and all of those around him. I wouldn't even mind if Kutcher were to play the titular innovator again (though this will never happen, I'm just trying to make a point about this film) because his performance shows real dedication, intuition and if there were to be a more experienced director harnessing his interpretation and going over the dialogue and how the actor could make it more than simply delivering the lines and possibly even create something truly memorable. While jOBS has a lot going on in terms of aesthetic and set design (they were able to shoot at Steve Jobs actual childhood home) they use the most obvious of songs to define the time period that takes up the majority of the film among many other small details that weren't major, but still show a lack of investment. I enjoyed the film for what it was and its typical approach to the biopic as there is nothing revolting about it, but there is so much more potential here it is a shame we will have to wait on an undetermined date to see if the second coming of Jobs on the big screen will be worth the wait.