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Saturday, August 17, 2013

'JOBS' Review: Was Steve Jobs An Erratic Sociopath Or Was It Just This Bad Movie?

If you're like me, the only thing you know about the late Steve Jobs is that he was the face and name behind every Apple product. But if you go into JOBS, the new movie inspired by the charismatic mogul, with that finite knowledge, you may very well discern that the man many looked up to might have been a sociopath.

That's not just because Ashton Kutcher, who plays the titular character, often falls into trance-like states when struggling to exude emotion in the film's more dramatic scenes (his effort is noted, but unsuccessful). It's more on account of Matt Whiteley's jagged storytelling and failure to humanize a well-known figure, something that should come par with taking on a biopic. Whiteley, who according to IMDB has no previous credits, painted a flat portrayal of Jobs, which is mostly made up of explosive board meeting disagreements, flagrant dismissals of those closest to him, and one great skill--identifying the genius of others and cashing in on it (using erratic business measures).

Despite its subtle attempts to rip off the far superior The Social Network--the liquidation of assets of co-founders, boardroom antics, social ineptitude and a loner look complete with the rejection of shoes--JOBS is neither compelling nor witty. It's obvious that everyone involved in the film, including director Joshua Michael Stern, presented it with the assumption that the audience already knew both Jobs and his progression to the top--both personally and professionally. Too many of Jobs' biggest blow-ups and outbursts are delivered with little to no pretense, while other scenes make arbitrary references or feature characters that are never explained.

For instance, we see Jobs blow a gasket when his girlfriend (Ahna O'Reilly) reveals she's pregnant with his child, even throws out her belongings and orders her to leave. At this point in the film, we have no idea which year this is, which is outrageous because 1) the movie is fairly diligent with time stamps until they're actually needed, and 2) this comes after an earlier scene with Jobs lamenting to said girlfriend over how his biological parents just "threw him away." Irony? Or is this a weird case of the pot calling the kettle black? We don't know what causes this particularly extravagant temper tantrum that, like many others, is never really mentioned again. Basically, the whole movie is made up of uninteresting (or alarming for the sake of being just so) snapshots that happened to be in chronological order inside of a movie that pretends to be a biopic.

To make matters even more ridiculous, Kutcher attempts to interpret Jobs' walk, which can only be described as having crap in his pants with a mild backache. It's just odd, and unnecessary even if it's true. In fact, much of Kutcher's performance borders on cartoonish, exacerbated by the obvious makeup (put to the test in the only scene that showed Jobs as an older man in 2001) and his hollow attempt to act like like Jobs rather than embody him. Too often the audience is taken out of the scene with thoughts of Hey, isn't that Ashton Kutcher? simply because the portrayal comes off too contrived.

However, a bright note in the movie comes whenever Josh Gad is in a scene. He plays Jobs' lowly co-founder Steve Wozniak, the real brainchild behind Apple, whose knack and passion for technology was first spotted by Jobs, who turned it into an empire. For the sake of identification, you can simply call him the Eduardo Saverin to Jobs' Mark Zuckerberg (yes, another The Social Network reference). But, unlike Eduardo, it wasn't Steve's finances that were diluted but his friendship with Jobs. In a few brief but effectively heartbreaking scenes, we see Steve mourn to Jobs over the loss of their solidarity and excitement for what they were each trying to accomplish (for Steve it was simply to have fun getting paid doing what he loved; for Jobs, it is still unclear). Predictably, Kutcher's Jobs is completely stone-faced.

Right now, a filmmaker somewhere is eagerly researching Jobs' life and those closest to him (if those type of people exist) to provide a full scope of Jobs for a good movie that doesn't just rely on his name and unidentified passion to hook an audience. In the meantime, let's just pretend this one never happened.

Rating: D- (* out of *****)


Brittani Burnham said...

LOL at the headline! Wonderfully written review, I will definitely avoid this one. No wonder the real Woz wanted nothing to do with this.

Dan O. said...

The problem I had with this movie was just that Jobs wasn't all that developed. Sure, he was a bit of a control-freak that didn't work well with others, but what else made him tick? Why was he like this? Why does he, or anything that he does matter? We never get any of those solutions, and are sort of just left to do the homework on Wikipedia. Good review Candice. said...

I think Job's probably had more than a touch of Asperger syndrome, attributing to his single-minded focus, obsession with perfection, lack of loyalty and disregard to others feelings.

I also think Matt Whiteley, probably made the right choice keeping things a little vague with regard to some personal issues. Because Jobs lived his private life very close to the vest, there just wasn't enough information to go on. Although a really good writer like Aaron Sorkin can expand the unknown and make it feel authentic. I wish they had gotten him to write this movie. Still I gave it 3.5/5 Lambs.

Dankwa Brooks said...

I didn't even read your full review Candice because I really have no interest in THIS Steve Jobs picture. One of my favorite writers Aaron Sorkin is adapting the official Steve Jobs biography written by Issacson.

I read that book last winter and let me tell you YES Jobs was a sociopath, but yes he was also a visionary. The Issacson book was sanctioned by Jobs himself and he wanted a no holds barred account of his life and it was just that. Jobs comes off as a weirdo, jerk, bully...a lot of things.

To me Ashton fits the looks of Jobs, but I haven't seen him anything that could in any way capture the complexity I read about. I might see this when it comes on DVD just because and just as filler until the Issacson film comes out.

Justin L. Brown said...

Among your current first points Mr Jobs did at his return feel for you to function a few adverts. "Think different" am your slogan. ALONG WITH featured were your own inventive as well as the creative: Bob Dylan, Maria Callas, Pablo Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright ALONG WITH Martin Luther King.

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