Film review of ‘Jobs’ : Jobs would send Stern’s rotten apple back for redesign

When it comes to biographies, choosing visual media over the written word has almost always been a misguided and futile exercise in half-heartedness. Despite this, the most successful and palatable biopics have at least come to one or two basic conclusions in terms of how to approach a challenge that is already flawed, fragile and predisposed to failure. Unfortunately, Jobs director Stern and first-time-out screenwriter Whiteley failed at the first hurdle, and rather than wisely opting to focus on a particular and limited period, they simply chose to harvest all of the milestone moments in the life of Apple boss Steve Jobs, add some filler to the chronology, ignore the inconsistencies of plot that inevitably arose, and hurriedly bang it all together with nails, greed, spit and sellotape in order to get the film released as soon after Jobs’s death as possible.

While a penned biography can offer far more depth, subtlety and nuance simply by virtue of its form and by not having time constraints (they’re rarely pocket-sized books after all), the filmmakers’ approach here has served to leave far too many plot threads frustratingly untethered, resulting in characters feeling poorly coloured-in and undernourished. Even in book form, choices must be made regarding what stays and what goes, but with Jobs the choices are only half-heartedly made and are felt far too frequently and jarringly, and the audience is left gasping for answers in the vacuum-packed black holes that regularly form in the spaces between pivotal scenes. Then there’s the harsh reality (for hero-worshipping Mac-serfs the world over) that despite his unflinching self-belief and desire for perfection, Jobs became such a revered and influential figure mostly due to his youthful collaboration with geek wizard Steve Wozniak (played amiably by Gad), and not particularly due to an inspiring and charismatic nature or any particularly great creative talent. This feeling is only compounded by the casting of Kutcher in the titular role – an actor who would struggle to capture depth of character in a muted teletubby.

Following a somewhat sickeningly reverent prologue where Jobs gives a speech at the iPod launch, the film space-hops its way back to the early 1970s, where Jobs is busy tuning in (to LSD) and dropping out (of college). He hangs around his former campus, barefoot and defiant, admonishing the education system for its narrow-mindedness. Before long, he begins to embrace his destiny, teams up with Wozniak and is firmly placed at the precipice of a major technological breakthrough. Things move quickly from here: one moment the pair are cobbling together the first Apple motherboard and the next they are embroiled in boardroom bargaining with an investor (Mulroney). The film does temporarily manage to lift itself out of its drudgery, as we avidly follow the twists and turns in both the marketplace and the boardroom, but rarely are we afforded much insight into the mind of the man, and instead must make do with Kutcher relying on physical traits and tropes as he smirks, bounces and shuffles his way through the motions like a nodding dog on a dashboard, hoping he has done enough to hide his acting deficiencies.

Speaking of the former Apple boss, director Stern said: “I think that what Steve Jobs did is a completely and totally inspiring story. It really goes to the spirit of innovation and of one-mindedness as far as achieving something that one might think is impossible.” As we all now know, it wasn’t impossible for Jobs to do it – just for Stern to film it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jobs (3)

Dir: Joshua Michael Stern; USA drama, 2013, 128 mins; Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, Ahna O’Reilly

Premiered September 5

Playing nationwide