The centerpiece of “Jobs” isn’t really Steve Jobs but the portrayal of Steve Jobs by Ashton Kutcher — whose fame heretofore had rested largely on the fact that he was married to Demi Moore. Who would have thought the guy who oozes Hollywood charm and toy-boy insincerity from every invisible pore had it in him to pull this off?
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (“Swing Vote”), “Jobs” is the first Hollywood-style biopic of the visionary behind the world’s most valuable company. There is, however, a sizable amount of birthing pain involved — Stern cautiously plots the climb up the mountain of info and legend surrounding Jobs, perhaps overly so. The story takes no risks and doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know already.
As an entrepreneur and a founding member of Apple Computers, Jobs was stratospherically brilliant. On a personal level, the man was a huge pain in the lower extremities. By many accounts, among his oft-repeated catchphrases were “You’re fired” or “You’re out” (which Kutcher duplicates to seeming perfection). When someone was slow on the uptake, good ole Jobs would say things like “You stink!” Think what would have been in store for the world had he been born in the USSR and teamed up with Joseph Stalin. Shudder.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Director||Joshua Michael Stern|
|Run Time||128 minutes|
Still, with Kutcher in the driver’s seat, the young Jobs, before all the fame and computer razzmatazz, comes off as an attractive, charismatic college dropout mulling over the revolutionary concept of the home computer. The dude’s too snazzy to adhere to anything like societal mores or the commitment thing, and when his girlfriend falls pregnant, has no qualms about kicking her out. By the time Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), Apple’s first investor, come around, Jobs can talk the talk like a born entrepreneur.
The fall guy in this scenario is kink-haired Steve Wozniak (an excellent Josh Gad) — no less extraordinary than his buddy Jobs but lacking Jobs’ innate power to forge ahead like a bulldozer to get what he wants, and flatten out naysayers in the process. Wozniak and the team of friends who help and support Jobs have some revolutionary ideas of their own, but they step into the background as Jobs alone takes center stage. Once they put him in there, however, the movie backs off from attempting to humanize the legend and Jobs remains more an icon than a flesh-and-blood human being.
The latter half of the film is devoted to drawing the life and times of Apple Computers, even when Jobs isn’t there. This would have been an opportunity to highlight Jobs’ foray into NeXT, the company that he started after being ousted from Apple (and later sold to it). That incident is glossed over quickly, as the story is prepped to show how the company loses its hippie edge under the management of John Sculley (Matthew Modine) and becomes ripe for the return of Jobs, who wants nothing more than to “make Apple cool again.”
Throughout it all, Kutcher is the one to watch: He has Jobs’ gait, mannerisms, expressions, the way he dismisses an underling or a trusted friend with a steely glint in his eyes and a wave of his fingers. As for what went on beneath that surface, we’ll have to wait for the next Jobs biopic.