Craig's First Take: "Jobs"

Photo Credit: Photo by Glen Wilson – © 2013 - Open Road Films

Could the expectations for “Jobs” be any lower at this point? A movie that seems to have made no impression at Sundance, has already been called out by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak as factually incorrect, has been made by writer Matt Whiteley and director Joshua Michael Stern (2 people no one has heard of before), stars Ashton Kutcher in a dramatic role, and is the “other” Steve Jobs film not being written by “The Social Network’s” Aaron Sorkin.

And for all the things this movie has against it, it somehow feels worse. “Jobs” makes no secret of the kind of bio-pic it wants to be: the kind that plays inspirational music for every big moment (even as Jobs holds up the i-pod in the beginning of the film) and seems to only know its subject on a surface level, as if all the research done on it was from newspaper clippings alone.

Jobs (Kutcher) is first seen walking barefoot around the campus at Reed College, more so to hang since he isn’t actually registered there. There’s a whirlwind montage of his “inspirations” where he takes calligraphy, turns to Buddhism, and travels to India, all intercut with him high off his ass hearing some orchestra as he sweeps across a field. It’s one of those BS “deep” moments that tell you nothing and seem pretentious. The movie takes us through his time at Atari, building motherboards, building the first functional computer (Apple 2), the mac and several other aspects all the way up to the late 90’s with the same level of detachment. Even his adoption is mentioned early on, but then never really analyzed.

Most of the other performances here feel slight and ineffectual. Josh Gad makes Wozniak’s farewell from the company one of the better moments but the rest of the time is like comic relief. Dylan Mulroney (Mike Markkula) and Mathew Modine (Job’s most like-minded confidant, although that’s barely mentioned here, John Sculley) fair even worse. The film is more interested in the various ousters of Apple’s leadership during the late 80’s than in the bonds that got them to the top. Kutcher is surprisingly not the biggest problem here, but it feels like he’s making a complex man into something simplistic. Give a tantrum here, another inspirational speech there, but we never understand what drives him. For example- in one scene he’s denying parentage of his unborn daughter but in the next scene he’s trying to build a computer in her name.

Sorkin’s movie is supposedly working from Walter Isaacson’s revealing autobiography and it’s also getting outside consulting from Wozniak himself. If you really want to learn something about Steve Jobs, that seems to be the real deal. “Jobs” got done first, but even in that, it just feels like it’s trying to capitalize on the man’s popularity without ever really focusing much on the man.