Mindlessly swiping away through text messages, app updates, and pictures on a cell phone or tablet it is easy to forget how new these modern, everyday staples are. Humans have become so adapted, even dependent on the possibilities provided by them that it takes some effort to think about the times before the “Era of Immediacy”. Ten years ago the first line of iPods had only a couple years on the market, today they are only one tiny part of the technological empire Apple has created. Founded by Steve Jobs on the promise of never abiding to conventions, the company has redefined an entire industry. Sadly, the film about the man and its dream couldn’t be more conventional, not terrible, just not inventive.
JOBS opens strong with a promising sequence in which the man of the hour, played by Ashton Kutcher, delivers the news of his latest creation that would become the most popular music player on the planet. From that milestone late in his life the story travels back to Steve’s days in college; a strange episode culminated by a drug-induced sequence in which he swirls around in a field a la The Sound of Music while images of his trip to India score the ordeal. Such epiphany leads him to develop a plan to sell his friend Steve Wozniak’s (Josh Gad) computers, and that is how Apple was born. What happens next? Well, they meet Mark Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), he invests, then the events fall into place chromatically without much ingenuity at hand. Some projects work, some fail, Steve never gives up, the board is full of greedy old men who want him out, he cries here and there, he hires the Pepsi guy, finds love again, returns to power.
There is never any depth to the diverse side stories hinted in the film, not to his childhood issues, or to his reluctance to be in his daughter’s life, or his sudden resentment towards many of his friends. All of these misguided plot points attempt to characterize the man as sort of an antisocial individual without the capacity to connect, but they are treated so lightly they have no relevant effect on how he is perceived. More noticeable is the point the story makes in terms of his talent as an entrepreneur rather than an actual inventor, or his seemingly pathological obsession with being remembered, and with changing the world not for profit but for greatness.
Director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) is clearly an odd choice given the high profile of the icon the film tries to decode. While certainly taking a leap of faith with a fairly unknown man in charge, there are really no stylistic choices that could point to any authorship on his part; it all feels very much arranged in the form of a classic biopic, and not of the best kind. On the other hand, despite it being most people’s biggest doubt about the project, Ashton Kutcher as the visionary man delivers the best performance of his career, it is nothing outrageously impressive but surely a departure from what the actor has done in the past. The actor, mostly known for his comedic roles, sets the ground for what might seem the start of a more serious career; however, even his ability couldn’t fully safe the film from it’s tremendous flaws.
This is the story of a man who will go down in history as one the most brilliant minds of our time; Stern’s film doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of his achievements. The inspirational catch phrases and very cool soundtrack can’t cover the lack of substance. It’s entertaining enough via the cool and ever-changing hairstyles, the sporadic comedic relief, and the fact that it makes the viewer analyze his/her relationship to technology; yet, as a biopic worthy of such a figure it is far from greatness. It appears the E! Network does better “jobs” on Jobs, their show Pop Innovators on Apple’s mastermind is coincidentally on this week, it might even be on iTunes.
Final Verdict: Mr. Kutcher is good, his shaggy walk might be a bit overdone at times, but the performance as a whole works; it’s what’s around him that doesn’t. The over dramatic messages of hope don’t help the films credibility one bit, which is a shame because in essence the story had outstanding potential. There was room to do something memorable, less plastic, more in line with the subject’s idea of creating something unique that connects with people. Since the end result did no measure up, Ashton Kutcher is, as unbelievable as it might sound, the best reason to watch this film.