Movie review: Jobs

Review Biopic
126 minutes/Opens on 15th August/Rating: 2.5/5

The story: The Summer Of Love in the United States is over but young Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher), an Atari technician, remains a dreamer, spiritual seeker and fan of psychedelics. He chances on a hobby project by friend and engineering savant Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), a circuit board they name the Apple 1. With sales of the board going strong, they found Apple in Jobs' parents' garage. The biopic traces the life and career of Jobs from 1971 till around 2000, with the release of the first iPod.

Of the Steve Jobs film projects that have sprung up since the death of the Apple co-founder in 2011, this one has crossed the finish line first.

The intention of its makers (aided by director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Matt Whitely) seems to be to show Jobs for the terrible human being he could be, and that the man, lionised the world over as a symbol of American individualism, creativity and business acumen, could be a complete and utter jerk.

For those who know the details of his life, as chronicled in various unauthorised biographies and one authorised one (Steve Jobs, 2011, by Walter Isaacson), it will come as no surprise to know that he abandoned his pregnant girlfriend, claimed credit for others' achievements and shunned people no longer of use to him, including Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) and early Apple employee and ashram buddy Daniel Kottke (Lukas Haas).

Ashton Kutcher, a limited actor who seems to come alive only when he is doing something silly, is more believable here than one has a right to expect. He might not have the chops or maturity to express the contradictory, mercurial nature of Jobs - a Zen thinker, refined and uncompromising aesthete who could also be a bully with a short fuse - but he at least looks the part.

Mostly, the actor puts on a blank, almost stunned look when he plays Jobs in his sociopathic moods.

Still, who is to say what the former Apple chief executive was really thinking during those moments? To compound the problem, the Jobsian charisma, that famous "reality distortion field" that he used to bend others to his will, is inadequately portrayed.

This film, which is not based on any biography in particular (probably for licensing reasons), does not reach further than the tabloid-ish highlights of the man's life.

Director Stern and writer Whitely either do not want, or cannot, dig deeper, nor do they seem to want to measure the man within the context of an American society that is changing, both as consumers and as users of the Internet. Pivotal boardroom battles are re-enacted, but lack any reason to exist other than to illustrate history.

Biopics are supposed to bring to life concepts that cannot be expressed on the page, or else, why bother? Instead of watching this, there is probably a more satisfying experience to be had buying Isaacson's eBook in iTunes for reading on an iPad.


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