Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs. Click on the 'Play' button above to watch the trailer for jOBS.
August 26, 2013
To think that the casting of Ashton Kutcher as futurist Steve Jobs is one of the best choices made by director Joshua Michael Stern in jOBS. On the other end of the spectrum: the typeface of that title. Sure, Kutcher leans on a couple of the Apple co-founder's physical traits as crutches, most notably his wobbly gait and predilection for thoughtfully cradling his chin with a thumb and forefinger. But it's a mostly restrained performance that manages to capture just the right mix of Jobs' intense charisma, shameless cruelty, and incredible genius. The film itself - penned by Matt Whiteley - struggles on that front. It wants to canonise Jobs, while never relenting in depicting him as an unrepentant a**hole who hurts those around him with glee (refusing to accept paternity for a child; denying partners well deserved stock options). It's not at all flattering, yet it still adheres to the most tired elements of similar projects that have come before it. jOBS is the Apple III of biopics.
We begin with teenage Steve as a college student; he wanders around campus without shoes, studies calligraphy, drops acid, and mourns the abandonment of his birth parents: key elements of the Jobs mythos never mentioned again. He meets whiz kid Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), whose invention of a keyboard inspires him to revolutionise home computing (before this, a laughable term). They establish a brand - Apple - and set up shop in his parents' garage. So begins a journey in which Apple grows into a monolith, incites a schism between the Steves, leads to Jobs' banishment from the company after some high profile failures, and eventually sees him invited back as CEO at the end of the 20th century. He also helped found Pixar somewhere between all that, though it's not covered here.
Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak and Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs.
This is a fascinating tale, intricately detailed in Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs. That book is being adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin, who retains the crown for writing the most compelling business drama of the dot-com era: The Social Network. That David Fincher picture dominates with its ingenuity of structure, sleekness of execution, thematic heft, lasting social resonance, and even volume of yuks. To put these two flicks up against one another would be like comparing an iPhone to a rotary dial. jOBS is serviceable, and nothing more. Supporting performances from reliable ringers Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, and Kevin Dunn give the endeavour some worth. By the time we see Kutcher's Jobs tearfully narrating the "Crazy Ones" ad campaign, reminiscing about all those characters he's encountered over the years, it becomes apparent how this movie felt like a checklist, as opposed to, you know, an actual movie.
jOBS arrives in Australian cinemas August 29, 2013.