Directed by Joshua Michael Stern.
2013. Rated PG-13, 122 minutes.
Lesley Ann Warren
It's fairly well known that way back in the 1970s, Steve Jobs (Kutcher) and a few of his buddies started Apple Computers in his parents' garage. They basically invented the home computer and became filthy rich. He was ousted in the mid 80s as the projects he was working on kept burning through money. Years later, he's brought back when the company is on the verge of going under. He then conquers all of Earth beginning with the introduction of the iPod in 2001 and rules until his death in 2011. This movie starts during Jobs' college years. Well, he is on campus and sits in on some classes, but it's never clear if he's actually an enrolled student. This is a couple years before starting the company. We wrap things up as he is brought back to rescue the floundering in Apple in the mid 90s.
The easiest thing to do is start with the elephant in the room, lead actor Ashton Kutcher. Plenty of people, myself included, rolled their eyes when it was announced he would play the iconic Jobs. After all, it can be argued that his best "work" was either on ABC's That 70's Show, MTV's Punk'd, or whatever he did to get Demi Moore to marry him. His movies range from "don't ever show me that again" up to a solid "meh." His performances in those movies are on the same scale. But hey, he's famous and bears a decent resemblance to our subject once you slap a beard on him, so here we are. The truth of the matter is that he's not that bad. He might actually be the best part of this film. He's never been an actor of any credible depth. Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for the rest of the movie, none is actually required. He is only asked to come off as mean, self-centered, and vindictive. Mission accomplished.
The relative shallowness of the iPod/Pad/Phone man is the movie's biggest detriment. At every stop along the way, he simply shouts down anyone who disagrees with him and either bullies them into doing things his way or sends them packing regardless of how integral they were to his success. Judging from this picture, Steve Jobs never actually made a friend. He just had people around who could realize his visions and treated them like interchangeable parts. Even when co-founder Steve Wozniak aka Woz (Gad) calls him on his boorish behavior, there isn't really an attempt at rectifying it. The scene is emotional in the moment because of who is saying it to him. However, that all dissipates rapidly because we see it has no real effect on him other than trying a slightly diplomatic approach to saving his own ass. This renders Jobs not a film about the man, but about giving life to his reputation around the office.
That Steve spends so much time in the office makes the omission, or more accurately the butchering of, his personal life a glaring error. Anything that happens outside of Apple just builds our hatred of him. Early on, he beds a co-ed then hops out of bed while telling her he's got to get back to his girlfriend. While Jobs is working at Atari Woz, who doesn't even work for the company, practically does an entire project for him, saving Steve's job (see that?) in the process. For said project, Steve is paid a $5,000 bonus. He tells Woz he only got $700 and gives him $350. Later, when the aforementioned girlfriend informs him she's pregnant, he just more or less says "Ain't mine," and tells her to kick rocks. We see him then refuse to see his daughter even though she sends cute little letters begging to be allowed to come visit him. We also see him arguing with his lawyer in an effort to find any way possible for him not to pay child support. The movie has a chance to make him look like a hero, here. I mean, the whole time we're thinking their tearful reunion scene with him accepting the full responsibility of fatherhood has gotta be coming, right? Wrong. Maybe it happens off screen. All we get is a shot of the girl lying on his couch like ten years after the lawyer scene. That's not to mention that he's suddenly married with another child by then. How any of this came to be is a complete mystery unless you're well-versed in the life and times of Steve Jobs. I am not. Admittedly, a trip to his Wikipedia page might clear some things up, but I shouldn't need to do that. Oh, and just in case you need more proof he was a dick, he ends the film by exacting some petty revenge.
What all of this adds up to is us being more apt to laugh at our hero when things don't go his way rather than showing even the least bit of sympathy. To us, he's just a bad person getting his comeuppance. The overwhelming feeling I got watching Jobs was the same one I got when I first hard they were making the movie. It's too soon. The whole thing feels rushed and half-baked. We're given a caricature of the man instead of a portrait. It's a shame because he's one of the most influential people of his generation, if not the entire twentieth century, and the still young twenty-first century, as well. It doesn't have to be a glowing fluff piece that bestows sainthood on the man, but he deserves more than a one-note portrayal of a rampaging monster who happens to have great ideas. We need the perspective of time. The people who know the stories that can round him out as a character need that perspective, too. In the interim, we were given "How an Asshole Made a Whole Lot of Money."
MY SCORE: 4/10