The good news: Joshua Michael Stern’s biopic Jobs never feels inappropriate or tasteless. It hardly feels as if the film was made with ill-advised intentions or to meet a strict relevancy deadline.
However, I can see a large portion of the movie going public leaving the theatre at the end wishing there was more to Stern’s film chronicling the life and times of the late inventor and Apple guru Steve Jobs.
Jobs follows a very safe route for its 122 minute runtime. It’s structured like a typical biopic running on autopilot and making sure it hits all those expected emotional notes using John Debney’s swelling musical score.
At the time this review was written, I was fully aware but hadn’t seen Funny or Die’s comedic take on Steve Jobs’ life in iSteve. However with Jobs, I could sense that audiences would see that Stern’s typical direction, along with Matt Whiteley’s screenplay, would give satirists plenty of material to work with. For instance, while observing the number of telephones Steve Jobs frustratingly slams during the course of Jobs, I couldn’t help but think of John C. Reilly playing the legendary fictitious musician Dewey Cox as he violently ripped sinks out of walls in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
There are plenty of moments where Steve Jobs is out on his luck as his bright ideas and his rebellious attitude become his own worst enemy, as well as occasions where Jobs’ renegade executions are applauded. After a while, the shots can be easily called – even if audiences are unaware of Jobs’ busy life beforehand.
Even if Whiteley’s screenplay doesn’t sugarcoat anything, this biopic has a Hollywood sheen laid on it in order to make the finished film easily digestible. This also means sending the film on a wildly slick fast track that could rival one of Apple’s efficiently speedy computers.
It’s understandable when filing through a highly influential mind’s life, some key events are going to receive more screen time than others. However, there are portions in Jobs’ life that seem incredibly crucial that Whiteley and Stern gloss over in a matter of fading transitions. I appreciate Jobs wanting to maintain a steady pace, but too much goes unexplained for no good reason. These are decisions that aren’t exactly bad moves on anyone’s part, but they sure are peculiar.
The conclusion of the film – without giving anything away – also ends on an odd note. It’s fitting if a tad too sentimental, but I would’ve preferred if Jobs’ first scene was the last we saw of this prolific individual. It’s a pivotal scene that utilizes all of its specialties nicely – and it would’ve sent audiences home with a smile on our faces.
If this review is sounding more and more negative, hang tight.
Even though I can recognize what’s rushed and botched about the film’s timeline and main focus, I found Jobs to be entertaining through and through. If it turns out the film may have bent the truth here or there, it isn’t apparent to the average audience attendee wanting to gain some insight into the mad, mad, mad, mad world of Steve Jobs because our eyes and ears are glued to the story at all times.
There is not one poor performance in Jobs. The promotional material for Stern’s film does not do Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of Jobs justice. Kutcher embodies the role and fine-tunes the mannerisms Steve Jobs had – including a slouchy walk and animated fidgets when addressing colleagues.
Over time, Kutcher’s familiar face starts to dissolve into this fine performance. Not just because of Kutcher’s ability to rock the defiant facial hair and wear similar spectacles, but because he understands what made Jobs tick and how those compulsions easily swallowed up his sociably-savvy techniques which allowed friends and clients to see eye-to-eye with him. It’s a terrific leading performance.
The rest of the cast fills out the production with solid performances, but the supporting standout is Josh Gad. Gad is both charismatic and touching with his portrayal of Steve Wozniak, a benignly hard working engineer who does a lot of heavy lifting and plays the ying to Jobs’ yang. During Apple’s slow startup, Gad’s exaggerated eccentricities become more and more overt. However, once Wozniak finds maturity when working with Jobs, the role becomes more grounded and less of a moderately chummy character.
Maybe that inclination to feel a little underwhelmed towards Jobs is because the film doesn’t necessarily have a lot to say. I’m not expecting Joshua Michael Stern to teach a message about dream chasing or hard-wired initiative, but you can’t help but feel as if the biopic is coming up short with saying an overall statement about Steve Jobs. Affirming multiple times that Jobs was a flawed but brilliant individual doesn’t cut it.
However, if you’re willing to accept a film that isn’t as deep or inspiring as you expect it to be, Jobs still makes for an absorbing movie about an adamant individual who was dedicated to changing the world. It’s full of admirable performances and it never feels like a bland ordeal.
Jobs isn’t at a Macintosh level, but it’s above an IBM. As much as it may have made Kutcher’s Jobs’ cringe, Joshua Michael Stern’s by-the-numbers biopic is as good as a solid running Microsoft computer. Eat that analogy up, nerds.