No, Jobs is not the next Social Network. Well short of that level, Joshua Michael Sterns’ Steve Jobs biopic lacks the completely assured performances, masterful direction, and whip-smart writing that made David Fincher’s film appeal to more than simply Facebook users. Instead, an interest in Apple products, the company’s history, and some reverence for Jobs is all but essential to enjoy the film. For viewers who fit that criteria, however, and won’t be overly miffed by a story that excludes all post-iPod products, a quality experience awaits.
Taking a fairly straightforward biographical approach, Sterns’ film begins with the revolutionary MP3 player’s 2001 debut, then leaps back to 1972 and the computer titan’s days as a recent dropout still roaming the campus of Reed College. In search of solid ground in these early stages, the film gets off to a rough start and appears largely out of control. Foremost, Jobs’ portrayer Ashton Kutcher isn’t a natural for drama and initial scenes of him as this famous personality are awkward. On top of that deterrent, the iPod unveiling is more hokey than heroic, the college scene with five people wearing the same red REED sweatshirt to I.D. the location is clunky, and an LSD trip with Steve and his buddies is just plain silly.
Halfway through that trip, as images of a voyage to India by Steve and fellow geek Daniel Kottke (Lukas Haas) are vibrantly intercut, the film shows its first signs of vision and grows from there. Carrying the energy forward along with the excitement of Apple’s birth and early development, Sterns’ confident direction sweeps Kutcher up with it and his performance gradually becomes a successful part of the whole. Though it’s easy to see how Kutcher’s embodiment of Jobs’ distinct California voice and stooped dinosaur shuffle with folded hands could go bad for viewers (especially those with zero tolerance for the actor), omitting these central traits would surely lessen the film’s quest for authenticity, the pursuit of which gives Jobs its charm.
This commitment likewise extends to the “jackass genius” image that was finally able to be told after Jobs’ death. Not always pretty to watch, the film presents the man as someone who never compromised his goals, even if it cost him friendships and family ties. Never is this dynamic more apparent than in his hot/cold relationship with Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak (Josh Gad, stealing each scene). With his pursuit of greatness supported by a true collaborator, these interactions show Jobs at his most humane and loving, sides that prove essential to stomaching the cutthroat visionary face he more frequently displays to the world.
Rated PG-13 for some drug content and brief strong language.
Jobs is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.