Jobs is a masterclass in everything wrong with the biopic and then some. For a film whose sole purpose is to tell the story of Steve Jobs, I can’t say I’m more illuminated about the life of Jobs after watching it. And as someone who’s had two iPhones and an iPod break on me, Jobs doesn’t help me understand the Cult of Apple, either. This is a movie that understands neither its subject nor its tone.At times, Jobs feels like it’s inching toward being a scathing dismantling of a greedy, selfish sociopath who abuses every relationship he has to get what he wants. If that was the film’s intent, I’d at least have respect for taking such an unpopular look at one of the 21st century’s most revered entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, this is not what the film wants to be, since it treats both Jobs and Apple’s achievements reverently. What’s left is a completely unrepentant, unlikable, unreformed character whose eventual perseverance is lauded. A lot of this blame should be placed in front of director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) for allowing such an uneven and askew approach, but don’t forget the obvious issue of casting Ashton Kutcher as Jobs in the first place. Kutcher’s only talent here is a vague resemblance to Jobs, and his attempts at being a Serious Actor — which consists mostly of outbursts of blubbering — are embarrassing. Sometimes he gets Jobs’ awkward gait and mannerisms down, but I never felt like I was watching anyone other than Kutcher, whose performance boils down to fake glasses and some mock turtlenecks.
Aside from Kutcher, start running through the cast list — Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine — and you quickly realize this is little more than a glorified TV movie. It certainly looks and feels that way, doing little more than hitting the highlights of Jobs’ career. The film opens with a pretty anticlimactic debut of the iPod and quickly flashes back to his college years as a smelly hippy who — at least in the simplistic way the film tells it — drops acid and decides to change the world. He does this by manipulating friends, neglecting his child and becoming an unrepentant, megalomaniacal capitalist who wants little more than to take everyone’s money. Stern seems to think Jobs is in the grand tradition of Citizen Kane (1941), or — to a much, much lesser degree — David Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) as a film about a rise to power, wealth and fame and the toll that takes on a man. But there’s nothing interesting, likable or even redeemable about the film’s subject, who is handled in entirely shallow terms.
To pile on, Stern’s film devolves into cheesy in-jokes (Steve yells at Bill Gates on the phone!) and moments that tread dangerously close to those flashes of inspiration in 1940s composer biopics (Steve hates his Discman and throws it into the trash!). These are all big enough problems on their own, but add a lead better known for his Nikon Coolpix commercials and Punk’d, and the movie as a whole is pretty shoddy. Instead of a film about a great man, Jobs is little more than the illustration of a very successful computer salesman. Rated PG-13 for some drug content and strong language.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande