What It's About
The genius who changed the world is the subject of a compelling biopic, simply titled "Jobs." Most of what is detailed you have read, seen or heard in news accounts and in Steve Jobs' own words of his much-lauded commencement speech at Stanford, yet it is intriguing.
"Jobs" is framed by two of Jobs' high points -- the introduction of the revolutionary iPod and the return to Apple before launching the iMacs and other 'i' pieces. Flashbacks to Jobs' college dropout days and subsequent creation of the personal computer are first, and we're on our way to one of the greatest success stories of the 20th century.
The boardroom struggles and, later, the remarkable second chance to return are compelling, for the man launched a techno revolution that continues to reverberate today after his death.
One of the most influential people of the modern era, Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) was well-known for his nasty temper, perfectionism, fruitarian diet and rejection of his first child by a college girlfriend he scorned. He also was able to inspire others, and lead them as a pioneer, a pied piper of sorts.
The straightforward film features an affecting cast and a plot that is engaging from start to finish.
While the young likeness is similar, Ashton Kutcher's canon certainly didn't give us a reason for thinking he could pull off this performance. I mean, "Dude, Where's My Car?"? But actually, Kutcher pulls off a complex portrait of a fascinating guy -- visionary, carnival barker, tough negotiator and somewhat of a jerk. He has the physical mannerisms and vocal cadences downpat, and Kutcher surprises everyone by pulling off a challenging role that pretty much no one believed he could do.
The supporting characters not only resemble the real people they are playing, but are affecting in these parts, particularly Josh Gad as whiz kid inventor Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple, and Dermot Mulroney as Mike Markkula, a former Intel guy who financed Jobs' Apple II. The rest, as they say, is history, but it is truly one of the major stories of our time.
The first-time screenwriter doesn't deify Jobs, showing him as a guy who didn't suffer fools, who could be shockingly insensitive and insulting, and whose single-mindedness damaged personal and professional relationships. He also knocked the socks off people with his game-changing ideas.
What Doesn't Work
Can a life as accomplished as Jobs' be given its proper due in two hours? Not likely. I wanted more. I could have sat through another hour, or a mini-series -- this story is one that deserves to be told. Some of the sticking points in his life are given short shrift, and his family is pretty much in the background.
The board troubles are given the majority of time, and it's understandable. Apple just celebrated its 37th anniversary, and we all know very well how vast its reach is in modern society.
Not just for techno-geeks, "Jobs" is way better than many people thought it would be. After the screening, we critics talking about the movie all pulled out our iPhones and started talking about the benefits of different models and programs.
What Steve Jobs achieved in his lifetime is stunning, and the fact that his flaws aren't ignored is a testament to the filmmakers. They get this one right. This is one film where I did not want it to end when it did.
3 stars out of 4
Director: Joshua Michael Stern
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, Ahna O'Reilly, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons
Rated: PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language