Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Biography, Drama
Run Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, Lukas Haas, James Woods
Written by Matt Whiteley (screenplay debut)
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote, Neverwas)
It would be easy to dismiss the new biopic, Jobs(opening today), as an elongated commercial for Apple. OK, well it is that, too. But with an uneven yet surprisingly nuanced performance from Ashton Kutcher in the title role, Jobs manages to inspire and inform us about the rise of one of the largest and most successful companies on the planet, by profiling the man who had the intestinal fortitude and vision to create something people didn't even know they wanted
Of course that man was Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computers, who succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2011. His story is that of the American Dream. Here's a guy who was a college drop-out, whom through hard work and perseverance went from humble beginnings - working in his garage - to becoming one of the wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs in American history.
The movie begins in 2001, with Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, introducing the iPod to the world. It then flashes back to a barefooted hippy version of Jobs, on the campus of Reed college in 1974 where things really began.
Through a professor that took a liking to him, Jobs was introduced to investor Mark Markkula (Dermot Mulroney). Literally working out of his garage with a rag-tag group of budding computer geeks (including Josh Gad as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who plays a significant role in the film), he convinces Markkula to take a chance on his newest invention, the Apple Computer. Flash forward to the early 1980s, and the Apple II computer revolutionizes the world market.
Much of the story takes place behind the scenes at Apple, where not everything was roses for Steve Jobs. He was eventually forced out of Apple in the mid-80s by a board of stockholders - and old friend Mark Markkula - who no longer believed in doubling-down company money on Jobs' risky ideas. Jobs left and founded NeXT, and when he rejoined a struggling Apple company in 1996, the NeXT platform was used as the foundation for the Mac OS X. Needless to say, by 1998, Jobs had Apple back on the map and on its way to incredible profitability.
Unfortunately, the film's story ends just after this. Surely Steve Jobs was one of the most important and influential Americans of the past century, so to see his biopic end well before his contributions did was a bit disappointing. Were the filmmakers planning a sequel? Why leave the last decade out of the movie?
Because of that, Jobs felt a bit incomplete.
It is no surprise that in the film, Steve Jobs is often depicted in front of a famous photo of Albert Einstein. His contributions and amazing vision put him in that intellectual category. It was interesting to see the imprint Jobs has had, as the film covers certain ground that many may not be aware of. Did you know that Steve Jobs worked at Atari and had a hand in allegedly creating Breakout, one of the first arcade games ever?
The filmmakers try to show the more unpleasant sides of Steve Jobs as well, though overall there is no denying that the film lands somewhere just short of hero worship. He experimented with LSD and Buddhism shortly after his college days and was really known as an a-hole by many who were close to him. Perhaps most damning of all, was his denial that he had fathered a young girl to his long-time girlfriend in the late 70s. The film showed that he did eventually admit his paternity, but his original denial came out of his maniacal focus on building Apple.
Never having been a big fan of Ashton Kutcher, he completely nails the mannerisms, speech pattern and look of the real Steve Jobs. His quiet moments throughout the film are his best, or when he is brewing with anger but holding it in just under the surface. But there are several scenes in the film were Kutcher is required to ramp things up a bit, by blowing up or breaking down. It's these moments of extreme emotion where Kutcher the actor, breaks through. Overall though, it was a surprisingly deft performance.
If you can get through the blatant Apple ass-kisses that are given throughout the film, you should find Jobs to be quite interesting. Steve Jobs was certainly important enough to warrant a biopic, and his story is also the story of the rise of computer technology in America, undoubtedly the most important thing that has happened maybe ever.
You'll laugh, you may cry and you will definitely be engaged. And when you leave the theater, you will have an uncanny urge to go buy a new iPhone.
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