Look, I’ll be straight with you, I’m not a movie critic. Nope, just an average moviegoer. But I am an Apple fan, and probably, like you, one who greatly admired Steven P. Jobs.
So ever since last Tuesday, when I got to sit through an early screening of Ashton Kutcher’s much-hyped new movie, Jobs, people have been asking me what I think of it. Is this a film that lives up to the buzz? Did Kutcher deliver? Or more often, “Just how bad was it?”
Following the Apple founder from his years in college up until the debut of the iPod, Jobs is a look into his, and Apple’s, humble beginnings, rise to power, loss of it all, and ride back to the top. And surprisingly, by about 10 minutes in, I discovered this film was powered by someone with remarkable acting chops.
His name is Josh Gad. Playing the part of Jobs’ loyal sidekick, Steven Wozniak, Gad’s performance was warm, genuine, touching and it brought nuance and complexity to a film that, quite honestly, really needed the boost.
Delighting me further were fantastic performances by famed actors Dermot Mulroney (as Apple angel investor Mike Markkula), Matthew Modine (as Pepsi man John Sculley) and J.K. Simmons.
Kutcher as Jobs on the other hand…
“I watched Kutcher imitate Steve Jobs, instead of actually becoming him.”
Look, I want to tell you he nailed it. I want to tell you his Steve Jobs was so damned good, we should all be ashamed for ever doubting him. But, like the possibility of audiences applauding at the end of this film — that’s not happening.
Kutcher, for all his love of the man, for all his research of the way Jobs spoke, carried himself and interacted with the people around him, was not able to deliver an authentic portrayal. For the entire duration of the film, with his strange interpretation of Jobs’ walk, poise and speech, I watched Kutcher imitate Steve Jobs, instead of actually becoming him.
Juxtaposed against Gad, the performance is only more painful, and I had to wonder if Kutcher felt as outgunned as he looked.
Of course, I can’t give Mr. K. all the blame. New-ish writer Matt Whitely penned the script, and was the one responsible for shoehorning every story and piece of Steve Jobs lore — and I do mean every single piece you’ve ever heard in your life — into a two-hour movie. With so much to show, these stories played out in ways that felt contrived and predictable at best. More often, they proved detracting, cheesy and hard to follow. In conveying so much, the film plot was left unfocused. I’m still not sure what it was about.
“The result is a portrayal that borderlines caricature”
Whitely also paints Jobs in a strange light — a fan’s light. And the result is a portrayal that borderlines caricature. Jobs is shown as a man, almost godlike in his ability to influence, foresee and negotiate, but unable to hold a regular conversation. He comes across almost autistic in they way he interacted with people. The wild extremes were too wide to be believed, and for me, it left the character of Jobs feeling hollow.
Ah, but here’s a twist — I still think you should see this movie. Yes, I’m serious.
Why? Well, though the plot is confusing, the writing isn’t great, Kutcher doesn’t deliver, and the film is overstuffed like a bad Thanksgiving turkey, this is a flick for fans. Yes sir, a movie made by fans, for fans. And though it isn’t a great movie, it is a fun ride, and you’ll enjoy some great performances by supporting actors.
And when the credits role, you’ll feel good knowing, hey, at least you saw it and got to experience all — and I do mean all — of the Apple and Jobsian lore you’ve read and heard about, all played out on the silver screen.