Honestly, if someone would’ve told me that I’d willingly be going to see a movie starring Ashton Kutcher, I probably would’ve just laughed in their face as I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan. But, I’ve always been an Apple Computer guy and more specifically a Macintosh user. I’ve sworn by Macs since the SE days and still use them today. So when I hear that Ashton Kutcher is playing Steve Jobs in a docudrama about Jobs’ life, well I have to take notice and I also have to admit, Kutcher certainly looks the part.
Jobs is the story of the rise of college drop-out Steve Jobs to becoming one of the most creative and honored entrepreneurs of our time. This follows Jobs’ career from building Apple Computer out of his parents’ garage all the way to the introduction of the iPod in 2001. Jobs comes to us from director Joshua Michael Stern who prior to this directed the movie Swing Vote starring Kevin Costner (which I have not seen). The fodder is certainly here for an entertaining movie and it’s been seen before in a fine effort from the TNT cable network, an adaptation of the book, Pirates of Silicon Valley that contrasted the rise of both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (starring Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall respectively). Unfortunately, this theatrical effort doesn’t exactly do much to make it more than a glorified TV movie, feeling more like an outline that hits the high points, but finds little to glue it all together much less make you feel the drive that Jobs had.
This feels like it’s missing entire chunks of Jobs’ life like explaining further about the deep friendship between Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who many see as the heart of Apple. Further, this tells us of Jobs’ rejection of his pregnant girlfriend and his daughter, but then later picks up with Jobs taking his daughter into his life with only a simple scene of Jobs looking at one of his daughter’s letters being the transition point. These are, at least to me, two very key points in Jobs life that brought about a personal change that allowed him to come back to Apple in 1996, and yet there’s little here to help illustrate that.
The way this is all put together feels extremely rushed and by the numbers, and as far as I know, that just might’ve been Stern’s intent, but it fails on making this magnetic storytelling. Jobs really needed to look at something like David Fincher’s The Social Network and develop something that would’ve told this story in a more effective way, maybe not with the same sort of edge that The Social Network has, but with something that better illustrates the passion behind the creation. As an avid Mac user myself, I think going for a route in that direction at least would’ve been more of a draw for me as I know just how passionate Mac users can be about what they create with their machines.
As I said at the start, I’m not really any sort of fan of Ashton Kutcher’s, but I do have to give him credit for taking this part and at least looking like he’s done his homework. Now with that said, I still think he falls a little short here looking more like he’s doing an impression than inhabiting a part. When I see one of his co-stars, Josh Gad (who plays Steve Wozniak) soldiering a motherboard, I get the impression that Gad knew what he was doing, but I don’t get the same vibe off of Kutcher’s performance. Further support is provided by Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine and J.K. Simmons (playing Mike Markula, John Sculley and Arthur Rock respectively) as the corporate body of Apple that wrests control away from Jobs. It’s serviceable work but that’s about it.
As a Mac user, I really wanted to like Jobs a lot more and there are certainly parts here that I did enjoy (the scenes where Steve Wozniak leaves Apple and where Jobs loses control of Apple come immediately to mind). But it still feels like there’s way too much missing that could’ve made this a more full experience. Sure, it’s certainly understandable that you can’t get in every little point to fit into a two-hour time frame, but still Jobs needed another pass at the script to get something that felt like a little more than a script outline.