By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
For those worried or concerned about Ashton Kutcher’s performance as the technology “i-con” Steve Jobs, fear not. Kutcher knocks it out of the park, perfectly capturing his manner of speaking, body language and unusual gait. Jobs’ charisma and passion for his products is perfectly recreated. In fact the rollercoaster of a career that Jobs had creating and selling computers and computer-based technology is all included here. Something is definitely missing, though. That is the real man, the person behind the smooth talking genius that made all these accomplishments in the world of technology. This biopic rarely gives its audience a personal glimpse into the life of Steve Jobs. The result is a gorgeous looking film that leapfrogs over key personal life experiences and mainly focuses on his work at Apple Computers.
In 1976, college dropout Steve Jobs started Apple with a few friends in the garage of his parents’ home in Los Altos, California. After a few years of aimlessly auditing courses at Reed College in Portland, Oregon and a sabbatical in India, Job returns to California with the desire to work in the technology industry. Following a stint at Atari, Steve realizes that he has no desire to work for others and decides to form his own company with his friend and business partner Steve Wozniak (Joshua Gad). Wozniak has the right technical knowledge to design and build their first computer, the Apple I. With their modest work and Jobs’ not so modest promotion of it, Apple gets the attention of investor Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) who provides them with the necessary capital needed to grow and further develop the company into a major technological player.
Steve clearly has passion for the company and a strong vision for what he wants to accomplish. The problem is that he often refuses to compromise his vision and ambition for the company, and this frightens investors and the board of directors. It is Jobs’ near tyrannical leadership that alienates his colleagues, strikes fear into his employees and contributes to his downfall.
Writer Matt Whiteley and director Joshua Michael Stern create a movie that is less biopic and more a career study. Audiences will get brief glimpses into pre-career Jobs as he lacks direction and basically lives the hippie life during the late 60s and early 70s. However, they will not get a real sense of his motivation for his pursuits or what originally attracts him to the computer business. The film jumps from one key career moment to the next. It never focuses on his personal problems, other than indicating that he refuses to be a part of his daughter Lisa’s life and that he has no problem turning on friends and colleagues to further his career. The film never explores the motivations or possible reasons for his often caustic behavior, but does show the long term effects.
Even after Jobs’ fall from grace at Apple, Whitely and Stern never show his progression and maturity which eventually lead him to marry and become a family man. All these missing gaps leave much to be desired. The film may look cool, but lacks depth of character and a definitive purpose. Jobs and his talent at Apple have produced some beautiful and stylish computers and devices in recent years, but at least their products often live up to their potential. This film doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
Jobs probably doesn’t deserve accolades for writing and directing, but the talented actors who make up the cast definitely deserve recognition. If Kutcher doesn’t receive any acting nods earlier next year, I will be shocked. I would be ecstatic if Joshua Gad receives some nominations as well. He brings much warmth and heart to his role as Wozniak. The movie also has some outstanding supporting work by Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, and J.K. Simmons. It is a shame that this entire cast couldn’t have been in a much better version of the Steve Jobs story.
While this particular version of that story is aesthetically pleasing, the development of the lead character is seriously lacking. The filmmakers gloss over so much of Jobs’ life away from Apple that we, the audience, never get to know why or how Jobs finds love and develops into a caring father. We mostly get to see how he starts his company from almost nothing, but manages to lose almost everything through his blind ambition. Though this portion of the story is often engrossing and fascinating, it certainly is incomplete.