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By FEMI ABORISADE
“Jobs” opens with Ashton Kutcher, donning a suitable look as the late Apple magnate Steve Jobs complete with short, cropped hair, a nondescript black shirt and blue jeans, walking into a small theater filled with his employees. After a terse and cheesy speech, he calmly pulls out the iPod, circa 2001. The crowd erupts into applause, the background music swells beyond belief, but unlike most of Job’s enrapturing presentations, this just feels off.
The remainder of “Jobs” improves a tad, but remains just as left-of-center and fabricated to the actual life of its subject, a man whose devotion to intuitive design coupled with ruthless perfection would have halted this film’s production long before it was able to be completed. While Kutcher earns points for a solid likeness and mannerism, he, director Joshua Michael Stern and screenwriter Matt Whiteley unfortunately have taken Steve Job’s compelling personal and professional story and whittled it down to an uncompelling narrative.
The sad realization is that displaying the best part of 56 years would be tough for any person, let alone a person who, in many respects, has been mythologized long before his passing from pancreatic cancer in 2011. The extent of Job’s tenure at Apple has revolutionized entire industries, created new markets and will stand as a testament to innovation over the bottom line.
Given that, “Jobs” produces more product worship than a direct deliberation of Job’s life. The film begins focusing on his life following his formal dropping out from Reed College in Colorado, where he finds himself wound up in Eastern spirituality, typography classes and heavy experimentation of drugs. Jobs eventually returns to California, where he swindles his friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) into creating a single-player version of Pong while pocketing most of the money.
Eventually Jobs learns about Wozniak’s circuit board and creates Apple Computer to sell it, but Kutcher does very little to sell his characterization of Jobs. If Jobs was witty, quick to anger and sometimes cold in personal situations, Kutcher depicts him as a overly persistent motivational speaker one minute, a hilariously irate person or a catatonic when placed in the hot seat. Even worse, Wozniak becomes pigeonholed as comic relief for the majority of the film. While deemed a kind and non-confrontational person by his peers, Whiteley fuels Wozniak with smarmy jokes based on his large stature or being a computer geek in 1976.
Moreover, the cross section of events displayed in the film are important and factual, but feel driven by no worthy sense of continuity. “Jobs” bases the entire worth of its subject on his founding of Apple in his parent’s garage, the company’s rise as a reputable tastemaker in the Silicon Valley, and his subsequent ousting and eventual return as the company’s CEO. Life does not always pan out in an clean-cut Aristotelian story structure, and Jobs’ life was certainly padded with many moments of mundanity.
But according to Whiteley and Joshua Michael Stern, Jobs’ life began as a 20-year-old dropout and ended with the unveiling of the iPod. There’s no mention of his failures at NeXT, his purchase and revolutionary dealings as the owner of Pixar, and, frustratingly, his grueling bout with cancer is merely an annoying process that deserves redaction. The film does not claim basis from the official biography by Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs;” in fact, another film is due to be produced on the book in the future, with an adapted screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote the script for the other modern tech drama, “The Social Network.”
Regardless, what was left for the audience to sift through is bogged down by lack of interesting dialogue, bland pacing or music that is eager to a fault, like a Danny Elfman score on HGH. The pivotal scene in which Jobs unsuccessfully leads a coup against his impending termination should feel edgy and bitter, but instead felt as rote as watching him walk through a room.
After watching the film and thinking about what it says about Jobs, one wonders why Kutcher seemed so enthralled to play the character, at least according to his interview on The Colbert Report” Aug. 7. Kutcher claims to have tackled the role as an admirer of Job’s work and as absolution for skipping the chance to meet him before his death. While the film does not rest entirely on his shoulders, it begs the question as to why he would lead this shotgun biopic that began production before Job’s death, and not urge those he collaborated with to bring the same devotion to art that the titular icon himself did for a living.