Review: Jobs (Sundance 2013)
PLOT: The life and career of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher)- founder of Apple Computers, from his early days with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), through his battles with Apple CEO John Sculley (Matthew Modine) in the eighties, to his eventual return to Apple and introduction of the iPod.
REVIEW: The life of Steve Jobs is a natural for the big screen treatment. How many of us carry an iPhone, an iPad, or work on a Mac? His work has touched us all for better or worse, and it's no surprise that there are a myriad of projects in the works about him. First out the gate is JOBS, by Joshua Michael Stern, who's mostly known for his Kevin Costner film, SWING VOTE.
Undoubtedly, this will not be the definitive Jobs biopic. Even if the Aaron Sorkin-scripted version, which is in the pipeline, doesn't get out- there will inevitably be another, better project that will come along. Even with a healthy budget, JOBS can't help but feel rushed, or- especially, TV-movie-ish. Starring Ashton Kutcher- JOBS really does feel like it belongs on the small screen, and if I had seen it on Lifetime, I would have thought this was pretty good. But- this is not a TV movie, with Open Road Films looking to open this on thousands of screen in April, and as a big-screen movie it feels mediocre.
It's biggest liability is it's leading man. In the title role, Kutcher seems to be trying really hard- but therein lies the problem. Great acting seems natural, and Kutcher always seems like he's playing Steve Jobs, rather than actually being the character through and through. One weird choice is his attempt to capture a weird hunched-over walk that Jobs supposedly fell into in real life. This may be accurate, but with Kutcher doing it, it comes off like an odd affectation, and unnatural. All in all, Kutcher's not terrible, but he's bland and has a hard time capturing Jobs' unquestionable genius. As Kutcher plays him, you'd never think of Jobs as a visionary. Rather, he's a jerk who spends a lot of time yelling at people, while others do the work. This may not have been the intention of the film, but it's the result, and a lot of the blame falls at Kutcher's feet.
Still, JOBS is pretty entertaining, and the 122 minute running time moves along quickly. The important events are covered, but again, it's very straightforward. No one will mistake this for THE SOCIAL NETWORK. It's big, bright, and has a ridiculously maudlin score by John Debney (when not playing wall-to-wall seventies hits).
Probably the best thing about JOBS is the supporting cast. Josh Gad makes a good Steve Wozniak, coming off as far more likable than Jobs himself, while Dermot Mulroney is excellent as early Apple investor Mike Markkula. Everyone else, including Lukas Haas as Daniel Kottke, Victor Rasuk, Matthew Modine, and Ron Eldard, is similarly efficient, although I can't say anyone blew me away.
JOBS will probably do OK business once Open Road puts it out in April, as I assume there's a lot of interest in Jobs' life. Kutcher's not great, but he's not exactly Razzie-level bad either. He's OK, just like the movie. Then again, who wants to see an OK Jobs biopic, when a truly great one is undoubtedly only a few years away? This is good enough for now, but eventually it'll go the way of INFAMOUS (destroyed by Capote) or THE GIRL (killed by HITCHCOCK).