When I was looking for cinema times for the Steve Jobs biopic, I ended up with Google results around employment; logical but fundamentally useless in this case!
Jobs is one of two Steve Jobs movies; the Aaron Sorkin one (The West Wing, The Social Network, The Newsroom) is confidently expected any decade now. Jobs on the other hand is late by 5 months due to, as the New York Post cited, a less than stellar reception from the Sundance Film Festival, while film-producers, Open Road, held that it was because there wasn’t enough time to build ‘buzz’.
I call bullshit.
Let’s first say that Ashton Kutcher in the title role was somewhat uncanny. I haven’t spent my life studying the mannerisms or behaviour of Steve Jobs to be sure, but based on what I have seen, it seemed a pretty accurate portrayal. Kutcher seemed to embody the role, in all it’s hurly-burly arrogance, inspiration and cleverness.
I should add that I have read the Walter Isaacson biography which, in hindsight, is a better overview of the Apple founder’s life. It does take substantially longer than 2 hours to get through though.
The makers of ‘Jobs’ do the now well-work time-warp (see Lawrence of Arabia for example), starting with the unveiling of the iPod by Steve Jobs back in 2001, then rocketing back to Steve’s student days at Reed University in the 1970’s. A quick cameo by James Woods and we’re off to fields of long grass, lens-flare and acid. The makers seemed to be apeing stylistically from hippie movies of the 1960’s to 1970’s (though avoiding split-screen which was, in hindsight, a missed opportunity), then business movies of the 1980’s and into the 1990’s. If nothing else we’re treated to examples of genre movie making over 3 decades. But there’s a difference between homage and dull; the many jump cuts to show financial backer Mike Markkula’s fab bronze 1970’s sports car and the seemingly endless spinning to music Steve Jobs does when stoned were totally unnecessary and gave less time for factual information that’s actually of interest (for example, the fact he was adopted, the Apple Lisa was named after the child he abandoned then later accepted, and the ultimate resurgence of Apple under his stewardship). The choice of triumphant swirling orchestral music at every point where Steve came through with a winning idea was incongrouous, repetitive and fundamentally pedestrian; it clashed with the rest of the popular music soundtrack (and sounded like something pinched from a record of “triumphant orchestral scores” by K-Tel for the low price of $9.99).
I felt I was watching a TV movie on Steve Jobs, not something I’d shelled-out $15 for.
The emotional centre seemed missing. Jobs was certainly a driven man, tyrranical in some cases and definitely someone you didn’t want to cross. He was also a perfectionist bar none and, despite haemmoraging money with projects, was proved right despite less imaginative people’s opinions. What drove him, some would say, was being given up for adoption by his mother, a fact that is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the inital stages the acid trip early in the movie. Maybe he thought he wasn’t good enough and this gave him the determination to prove this idea wrong? All that came out in the movie was a rather dull re-telling of the formation of Apple Computer, Jobs’s perfectionist attitude and his return to the company he’d founded in the 1990s. Factually it appears accurate, and for those who don’t know the story of Steve Jobs, it’s undoubtedly informative, but as an experience I felt like pressing pause on the DVD to go make a cup of tea.