Yea, there’s no better indicator that Oscar season has arrived than the release of the first biopic. Jobs follows the story of Apple’s founder as he navigates the treacherous waters of the business world to ultimately mold his ‘little company that could’ into the international behemoth that it is today. Not having any vested interest in the success or failure of this movie, mainly because I don’t really care much about Steve Jobs one way or the other, I like to think that I’ve been able to take a marginally more objective approach to this review.
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern and written by Matt Whiteley, Jobs attempts to take a towering public icon who has essentially become engrained in 21st century society and shrink him down to a more human, relatable level. Whether or not the film succeeds on that count remains an exercise for the viewer. Nevertheless, I blame the writing more than the direction for much of the film’s shortcomings, and indeed, theres a lot to like here from a directorial standpoint. For instance, Stern has a wonderful eye for composition, and by that I mean that almost all of his shots seem to be very well balanced and visually pleasing, almost on a subconscious level. There’s a lot of interesting asymmetrical balance to the film, and if nothing else, the movie is interesting on a purely aesthetic level.
Starring Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad as Steve Jobs and Wozniak, respectively, it’s certainly clear that the film is trying to maintain it’s relevance with some younger talent, especially after the release of so many financially draining summer blockbusters. While I can admit that Kutcher looks like Jobs almost to a T, I had an exceedingly hard time taking him seriously as this almost quasi-mythic figure. This is the same guy who did PUNK’D for the longest time, if you remember, and though his performance wasn’t bad or disingenuous by any means, it was certainly nothing to write home about.
As I mentioned before, I largely blame the writing for a lot of the problems with the movie. Frankly, I found the whole experience a little bland and superficial despite its subject being one of the most dynamic and conflicted individuals in the public sphere. I’m a little curious as to what Whiteley used as his source material. Jobs’s biography, perhaps? I mentioned that the film is superficial because I got a strong impression that whoever wrote the script had read a great deal about Jobs and his accomplishments but had never considered who this man was as a person. Rather, what we get is a somewhat one dimensional character- a clever, innovative guy with a penchant for dickishness- reacting his way through a series of barely connected events. This lacking sense of connectivity is not helped by some arbitrary jumps forward in time, to key moments of Jobs’s life with little to no context or indication of what happened in between.
The other glaring issue that many people had with the film was its tendency to be blatantly, aggressively inspiring to an obnoxious degree. There must have been at least six or seven instances of characters launching into these monologues for no clear reason, only to say something so saccharine and yet so irritatingly blithe that I almost had to cringe. Therein lies the real problem, I think. Even with the somewhat even portrayal of Jobs’s more negative attributes, the creative team behind the film still saw him as some kind of messianic hero, come to take us to the technological and social promised land.
What we’re left with is a bloated, shallow, somewhat bland portrayal of an otherwise interesting individual, further marred by some blatant idol worship on the part of the crew. More than anything else, I feel as though Jobs was a missed connection, flirting with yet far from achieving greatness. Visually interesting but fundamentally weak, Jobs is a bit of a miss.
Rating: 2 out of 5