[Film Review] ‘Jobs’ is everything Jobs hated

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Steve Jobs knew how to make a sales pitch. He sold the future, put a massive prize tag on it, and tempted people too to take the plunge. He knew what to say and how to say it. He was aided, of course, by the knowledge that he had a superior product, that with a sentence and a gesture, he could show the audience something they had never seen.
Joshua Stern’s Jobs has, in the life story of its subject, a clearly superior product. The constant pushing of the boundaries of science over the last century have taken scientific breakthroughs much beyond the realm of our understanding; scientists have to literally recreate the Big Bang to capture our imaginations. In that void, it was natural for Jobs — every bit a commercial figure who, much like Edison, took existing technology and paradigmatically improved how it looked and worked — to be adopted as the great visionary of our age. His pronouncements on life, the universe and everything gave him mythic status and, combined with his compelling life story, meant that the first biopic after his death would be as keenly anticipated and analysed as any keynote speech he gave.
Yet, as one reviewer puts it, Jobs “has all the sex appeal of a PowerPoint presentation”. It is everything Jobs hated: lazy, halfhearted, shoddy, confused, derivative, with the vision of a blind frog in a very deep well. What it has to say about Steve Jobs the man could just as well be written in WordArt. Though by no means a hagiography, the only critique the film makes of its subject is that he was too driven and anally retentive about minor details. Neither trait is really explored; he bails on his girlfriend when she is pregnant, but his complex relationship with his daughter Lisa isn’t touched at all, while his neurotic perfectionism is only shown through him obsessing with fonts and the board fretting about rising costs.
Ashton Kutcher, much like John Abraham in the similarly superficial Madras Cafe, is earnest in his portrayal of Jobs, but never convincing. He looks and sounds the part — he has Job’s slouching walk down to the T — but like Farhan Akhtar showed with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, that isn’t nearly enough. He is hindered by the shoddy writing, which gives him precious few lines of dialogue that could ever be accused of being memorable. Inexplicably, for all the reams of eminently quotable Steve Jobs quotes, it chooses the drabest of speeches for its opening scene, setting a precedent for the rest of the film.
What the film chooses to leave out is revealing of the lack of understanding the film has of what went into forming Jobs. It could argue that two hours isn’t nearly as enough to include all the deets, but in that case, the amount of time it spends driving home the same point is a criminal waste. Jobs’ work with Pixar and NeXT is only given montage treatment, but even Jobs’ innovation process, his struggles for perfection and the attendant toxicity are given short thrift. As is his rivalry with Bill Gates; a token voicemail diatribe acknowledges the feud existed, but I suppose a fear of Microsoft’s lawyers causes it to desist from going further.
Throughout the film, there is a sense that you’re on the outside, looking in, and that you’re not alone. There’s another biopic in the works, and Steve Wozniack is apparently involved, so there’s hope that it will be more an inside job. As Apple showed, it is more important to do something right than to do something first. Jobs, like MySpace, bears too much resemblance to something made in someone’s garage.