Steve Jobs was a complicated man. In his college years, he was a freethinker, a student of the world. He wanted to experience life and he did so by traveling abroad and eating acid. And then he became motivated by a desire to change the world's perception of what a personal computer could do for humanity. But this drive turned him into something of a monster, pushing aside the people who loved him and the company he created, Apple, to be taken away. And when he was at his lowest point, he changed again. This is Steve Jobs, or this is how director Joshua Michael Stern, whose new movie Jobs opens this weekend, would have you think the iPod-creator was like. Why was he like this? I don't know. Stern doesn't tell us that.
Jobs, which stars Ashton Kutcher as the man behind the Mac, opens in the early days. We are taken back to Apple's humble beginnings in the garage of Jobs' parents. From the start, Stern wants us to think good things about the man. He is enthusiastic, driven, and whatever cockamamie idea he throws out there ("you will buy 100 units of my new computer that doesn't exist yet for $500 a pop!"), people eat up with a spoon. But while Stern may want us to think Jobs is a really perplexing individual, it's sort of difficult to get past the fact that he's a horrible person. The movie makes him utterly unlikable and maybe the guy was a huge wiener in real life, but this detail makes him very difficult to root for, which is what we are being asked to do.
None of this is Kutcher's fault. Kutcher plays the role just fine. The fact that he looks an awful lot like the deceased megamind doesn't hurt. But Kutcher has also done his homework and he's grasped Jobs' mannerisms well. At times his performance feels like too much of a performance; I would argue that this is the first time Kutcher has ever really acted in his career, so he is still something of a novice, with potential. The over-emotional scenes needed work.
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The movie, overall, wasn't even that bad. I say it like that because I really expected it to be. Oddly it felt too long, two hours running time, but it never dragged and it would be difficult to say where it needed cutting. There was just something wrong. That "something" was a whole chunk of plot. If you are not familiar with Jobs' history, you will walk away from this film still not knowing Jobs' history or the history of Apple. Why the original Apple was so revolutionary was not explained, nor was how Jobs lost control over his own company or why he turned into such a jerk. And then there were those ten years between his dismissal from Apple and his triumphant return, which are completely glossed over in the movie but were highly important in both his and Apple's existence.
The movie felt like a well-done made-for-TV-movie, but had it been one, it would have been better as a mini-series. If one of the cable networks had picked this up, it could have been longer with more insight into who Jobs really was and how he built his company into what it is today. Or the movie could have taken an entirely different section of his life and gone from there. Luckily for Jobs fans, another version of this movie is coming out soon enough and will be written by Aaron Sorkin, which already makes it better.