By Gary Murray
Starring Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad and Dermot Mulroney
Written by Matt Whiteley
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
Running time 122 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Ashton Kutcher is one of the most successful people in new Hollywood. The former That ‘70’s Show actor has become a media mogul with television and film projects. His executive producing credits are all over cable television. On film. he has mostly done silly romantic comedies such as No Strings Attached, Valentine’s Day and What Happens in Vegas. Those types of films make tons of cash but get little respect in Hollywood critic circles. His first step into truly adult roles is Jobs.
The story of Jobs is of the rise and fall and resurrection of the founder of Apple computers, Steve Jobs. The film starts at the end with the introduction of the man in a series of long shots, describing his latest invention. We get used to the voice and the mannerisms before we see a close-up of the actor playing the icon.
Then the film goes back decades. Steve Jobs is a college student who has dropped out but still attends classes. He has a massive thirst for knowledge but little direction. He’s more interested in seducing co-eds than building computers.
In his youth, he takes acid and visits India. He lives in his barefoot existence of the post hippie college world. His professors know that Steve is brilliant; he just has not found his purpose. He works for Atari and is frustrated by those who say no and it cannot be done.
Jobs is friends with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). Wozniak has combined a computer board with a television. Now, one can see what they are doing in programming and running the machines. This opens the eyes of Steve Jobs to the idea of a personal computer, something no one else has ever considered. At that time, computers were these giant beasts that took up rooms.
The two start Apple Computers in the garage of Steve’s parents’ house. Eventually, others begin to understand the vision of the two Steve’s. Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) becomes the money behind the venture. In the world of Jobs, Steve Jobs isn’t so much an inventor but a salesman of a dream. He surrounds himself with the best innovators and feeds off of them.
The story of movie is the rise of Apple Computers and what happens when the company goes public. Now, there is a board of directors who want a guarantee on their investment. This goes in direct opposition to the founders. They just want to make cool stuff, damn the cost. The conflict between commerce and creativity drive the plot of Jobs.
The story of Steve Jobs is an American story. It is of the dreamer in all of us, the guy who believes with such a passion that he makes mountains move. The film tries to encompass an entire life in two hours but it feels like director Joshua Michael Stern rushes through the life. There is barely a mention of Pixar and the I-phone, easily two of the greatest achievements of Apple.
I don’t really know why this needs to be said, but movies are not documentaries. There are all sorts of complains that the film is not 100% factual. Well, that’s because this is a fictional account of a life, not a point by point, line by line filmed document of fact. It is like Citizen Kane. Everyone knows it is a fictionalization of William Randolph Hearst but not a documentary of William Randolph Hearst. In the rumored world of cinema, ‘rosebud’ was not a sled. Many parts of Jobs life are changed to drive the fictionalized idea of the story. It is ‘facts be damned and full speed ahead’.
The biggest reason to see Jobs is to see the development of Ashton Kutcher into a character leading man. He gets all the mannerisms right but never the internal man. We still do not know why Jobs was the man that he was, no great revelation to why he did what he did. It is much of an unsolved mystery than the answer to a question.
Josh Gad is a stand-out as Steve Wozniak. He is the true brains behind the personal computer, an unsung genius in the shadows of Steve Jobs. This comic actor proves that he can handle more dramatic roles with grace. We feel more for him that for Jobs during the running of the movie.
Jobs is a good movie but not a great movie. It is a long-shot for Mr. Kutcher to get an Oscar nod. It is much more of a film about belief that about computers, more about the thinker than the hardware.