Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, JK Simmons, Matthew Modine
Last year, right around April 1st, it was announced that Ashton Kutcher would be portraying Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic. Now you can imagine our skepticism over the validity of this story. Not only was it right around April Fools, but the notion of Ashton Kutcher playing Steve Jobs made about as much sense as Brad Pitt portraying Oprah Winfrey. The story sadly turned out to be true and I found myself taking to task, the filmmakers and producers of jOBS, as to why they would cast such a stilted one dimensional actor as Kutcher to portray one of more iconic people of the last 100 years. When I find myself in these situations, questioning as to why a move would be made, I hope that I’m wrong. My hope being that something unexpected comes out, something you never saw coming. That’s one of the great things about film. Well, bad news for Kutcher, he can’t pull off portraying Steve Jobs. The good news for Kutcher, he’s not the main reason for the catastrophic failure that is jOBS.
What really kills jOBS is its lack of focus, its lack of brutal honesty and its desire to rush itself so it can be the first Steve Jobs film the public sees. And oh yeah, casting Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, but I’ll get to that later. I can’t even recommend this movie to people who maybe can look past casting and just want to see a movie about the life of Steve Jobs. This film can’t even really get that right. But look, there are a couple of bright spots in the myriad of cancerous ones in Jobs, with one of those bright spots being that the filmmakers of the other Steve Jobs biopic movie (the one with Aaron Sorkin involved), have a good blueprint for what not to do in their movie. Let’s just hope they don’t cast Wilmer Valderrama as Steve Jobs, or Brad Pitt as Oprah Winfrey.
jOBS takes the straight as an arrow linear approach to showing the life of Steve Jobs (with the exception of the opening scene where Jobs introduces the iPod for the first time to Apple employees). The movie begins with his time at Reed College, where he eventually became college dropout to his time with Atari and then eventually starting Apple with his friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) with a few other friends in his parents garage, to his turbulent time at Apple that led to his ousting and eventual reconciliation where hereturned as CEO in the 90’s The movie abruptly ends just before the introduction of the iMac in 1996 (which makes the opening scene where Jobs introduces the iPod suddenly out of place).
jOBS obviously wants to be a champion of Steve Jobs, putting him up on a pedestal and showing that every move he made was a genius one (which in real life wasn’t the case). But Jobs was a complicated man who while many admired, didn’t really like his tactics or hard line approach to business, which blended into his personal life. The movie broaches these subjects but does so without any conviction to do more than scratch the surface. While it wouldn’t have made for a better movie, it would have been better to avoid this subject all together because at least the tone and the focus of the movie would’ve been tighter. But since jOBS fails to do that, the movie is just dishonest with its true intentions. Then there is the decision to follow a linear timeline to tell his story. Since the movie wants to pack in as much information as possible, it takes more interesting aspects of Jobs' struggles with making Apple what it eventually came to be and only gives them a slight mention. And with jOBS being over 2 hours long, the movie throws too much at you. It definitely would have been a wiser move to take one specific point in his life and build around that.
And then there is Kutcher…boy was he the wrong choice here. I will give him this, his enthusiasm to make this work is apparent, but he doesn’t have the skills to pull off giving you a real look at Steve Jobs. If he’s not awkwardly staring off into the distance or at some computer design, then he’s trying to hard to just mimic Jobs and not putting life into his performance. The only one who walks away with doing anything good is Gad as Wozniak. You really get a sense for what Wozniak brought to Apple and being the brains behind the operation. The film is also filled with good character actors, from James Woods, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine and JK Simmons. But the movie does nothing with the men they are portraying, leaving them as empty as Kutcher’s performance.
Well Sony, you’re up to bat. Let’s hope you and Sorkin learn from jOBS many many mistakes and give us the Steve Jobs movie we and he deserves…and keep Valderrama off the studio lot lot will you?