By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
No, it’s not a documentary about employment.
It’s a tribute to the already legendary entrepreneur and inventor who introduced the Mac, the iPhone, and the iPad to our lives.
Jobs is a biographical drama about the late Steve Jobs (who died a year ago at age 56), covering the decades between 1971 and 2000, when the Reed College dropout and technological whiz created Apple Computers in his parents’ garage, then lost and regained it, in the process changing the social and cultural world.
The film certainly acknowledges Jobs’ visionary brilliance, intrepid ambitiousness, and dogged determination. But it also establishes his suffer-no-fools mistreatment of others, and the casual cruelty he displayed in many of his personal relationships. In general, however, the warts in this portrait are viewed as the unpleasant baggage that accompanies genius.
The film begins in 2001, as Jobs inaugurates the first iPod, then flashes back thirty years.
Ashton Kutcher, who bears more than a reasonable resemblance, stars as Jobs, and he impressively and credibly captures not only his brilliance and temper, but his walk and voice as well. Viewers who dismiss Kutcher out of hand because of his relatively undistinguished movie career and therefore find his casting problematic will likely be impressed.
Director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote, Neverwas) works from an episodic, hero-worshipping screenplay by first-timer Matt Whiteley that’s partly based on interviews with people involved with Jobs but not on the best-selling biography by Walter Isaacson. The script is appropriately reverential, but it has far too much on-the-nose dialogue (“Steve, you are your own worse enemy.”). Nor does it allow any supporting character – not even Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ Apple Computers co-founder, played engagingly by Josh Gad, although he comes the closest — to come to much-needed three-dimensional life.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so the film feels superficial as it speeds by without ever quite getting under the skin: his or ours. That is, in terms of Jobs’ main mission, think of the film as a computer that’s not personal enough.
Several other inescapable perceptions emerge as Jobs unfurls: that Jobs would have disapproved of the film’s prosaic, straightforward approach, that the film doesn’t match the complexity of the man; and that the theatrical attraction is too small for the big screen and perhaps should have been, and would have seemed more appropriate as, a telemovie.
All that said, however, the film is nonetheless informative and entertaining if less than challenging and provocative.
So we’ll slice an apple into 2½ stars out of 4 for a respectable biodrama that doesn’t quite compute, but that succeeds because Ashton Kutcher does a pretty good Jobs.