It was about halfway though Jobs when I realized I was doing the work of the film for it. I have read the biography written by Walter Isaacson and was moderately familiar with the man prior to that. The life and legend of Steve Jobs is near mandatory knowledge for an Apple devotee. That being said, I was able to fill in the monstrous gaps the film glosses over without becoming lost in the endless montage stream of this movie. The filmmakers were clearly ambivalent towards the subject matter and the lack of focus ultimately drags the movie down.
Jobs tries to chronicle the life of Steve Jobs from his college days in the seventies all the way to his reintroduction to Apple in 1997 with a brief introductory scene that takes place in 2001. That is an immense timeframe for a film of this scope. Jobs led too chaotic of a life to sum it up in two hours. As a result, entire time periods are glossed over and vital information is left by the wayside. The film spends a few minutes on Jobs’ life before Apple, but it isn’t until Steve Wozniak is introduced that the film starts really moving. Jobs and Wozniak built Apple Computers from a start up in a garage to the massive tech giant it is today. The creation of the company would have made a perfectly acceptable two hour movie. Here it is given maybe twenty minutes and five minutes of that is probably montage. The montage is so overused in this film that it seems as if it’s telling a life in montages.
This is the second Hollywood feature from director Joshua Michael Stern with the first being Swing Vote. This is not encouraging. There are serious script concerns from first time screenwriter Matt Whitely which do not help with the direction. All in all the filmmakers neglect to take a stand on Steve Jobs the man, which makes Steve Jobs the movie a study in hedging. Steve Jobs was a complicated man who was never well liked due to his behavior, opinions, social skills, and personal hygiene. He was also a technological visionary with a capacity to see what others were missing. This film doesn’t know how to treat its subject. Does it portray Jobs as a visionary that we should rally behind or should it show how mean and awful he could be to even those that were very close to him? In the end, the film chose neither. It shows some of his bad traits which undermine the lovable outsider it tries to play up in other instances. It fails to pick a direction of any kind and lets the subject off the hook for the bad stuff, but not quite enough to make the audience forget about it when showing the good stuff.
A further problem with the film is its tendency to use a grandiose score whenever Jobs talks about computers, the future, or Apple. The orchestra swells and the music really tries to hammer home how important what he’s saying is. I believe Steve Jobs was truly visionary when it came to computing, but I fall short of believing that every word he said on the subject was worthy of heart tugging string arrangements. This is lazy filmmaking.
This brings me to what I had believed was going to be the problem with the film the moment I heard the casting- Ashton Kutcher. Kutcher has never been a strong performer and is not one I think of when I want acting chops. In Jobs, Kutcher is a strong performer indeed. Kutcher nails many of Jobs’ mannerisms and vocal patterns as well as being a dead ringer in the looks category. Jobs had a distinct way of moving which Kutcher brings to the screen with ease. In addition, Kutcher brings a wealth of emotion in his eyes and showcases talent that has, to this point, remained unseen. This film has many flaws, but Ashton Kutcher is not one of them.
Josh Gads plays Steve Wozniak and is a pleasure in every scene he’s in. He leads a solid supporting cast that is full of names that no one has heard of, with the possible exception of Dermot Mulroney. Gads expertly portrays Wozniak’s lovableness and desire to be one of the cool guys. Sadly, the film tosses the character to the side in favor of a not-quite redemptive tone for the title character. He is missed dearly when he’s not present.
The acting of Kutcher, Gads, and the rest save this film from being a total embarrassment, but the script is where the true troubles lie. It tries to tackle far too broad of a time span without ever taking a stand on anything. Steve Jobs was many things all at once. The film tries to be all of them a little at a time and ends up being nothing much.