Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) goes from college dropout to one of the leading computer innovators in the world, in an often tempestuous career that sees him lose and regain control of Apple. (Based on a true story)
Review by Louise Keller:
It's a hot subject matter: Steve Jobs, innovator and Apple creator, whose passion and obsessive nature is equalled by his anti-social nature and contempt for people. In truth, it is difficult to make a bio-pic of such a well known personality relatively not long after his death (October 2011) compounded by the curiosity factor of Ashton Kutcher playing the title role. Kutcher is surprisingly good - a little mannered at times - but delivers the essence of the man, or at least the extensively researched character that scriptwriter Matt Whiteley presents.
Joshua Michael Stern's film paints a clear picture of Jobs, accentuating his unique skills to develop 'a tool for the heart' with limitless options and to champion the idea of being different, as his vision for everyman's computer becomes a reality. His brazen negotiating skills are also highlighted. But ultimately, it is Job's flaws as a human being with no moral compass and his innate inability to deal with people decently - either in his business or personal life - that we cannot help but remember. It is a callous nature that spits people out like pomegranate seeds. Loyalty is not a word in the Jobs vocabulary.
The film's flaws are in the storytelling and while the minutia of the early days is canvassed as Jobs creates the first Apple office in the garage of his step-parents' family home, the jump from the 80s to the 90s to the present day are frustratingly scant.
After a brief sequence in 2001 when Jobs launches iTunes, the device offering 1,000 songs in your pocket that revolutionalises an entire industry, the film is told in flashback, beginning in 1974, when a youthful Jobs is finding his way in life - experimenting at college, tripping on drugs and exploring spirituality. Identifying early on that he cannot work for other people is a rare honest moment and we see first hand how he abuses trusts and friendships. The scene in which he denies any responsibility to his pregnant girlfriend is indicative of his self-obsessed nature. The film's most heart wrenching moment comes in the scene between Jobs and Was (xx, superb), the lovable, trusting geek with whom Jobs begins Apple.
There is limited interest in the ins and outs of the boardroom struggles and inter-personal relationships and the time jumps negate continuity. The final one in which we meet Jobs, seemingly contented, surrounded by a loving family seems to be at odds with everything we have seen before; the script's lack of credibility is on show here and we feel as though we missed an all-important part of the journey.
On a personal level, it is hard to like or admire anything about the man portrayed on screen, but of course it is his legacy that will be remembered and his ability to inspire. Hopefully the next film about Jobs for which The Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin is working, will deliver a better script.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Steve Jobs who died in 2012 bears little resemblance to the Steve Jobs portrayed here, but that's not to be unkind to either Ashton Kutcher - who delivers an authentic characterisation - nor to the filmmakers. It was never intended to be a complete biography and ends when Jobs regains control of Apple in 1994 (but the film starts with a scene of Jobs introducing the iPod in 2001.)
This is really a sort of 'Apple begins' movie, with Jobs framed as the unlikely founder of the world's richest company - eventually, but at least coinciding with his death. He died on a corporate high, if I may be excused the vulgarity, after a life that by all accounts was far from easy. Nor was he. Often unkind to people around him and careless about people's feelings, Jobs is shown with one overriding characteristic: drive. And that drive is coupled with his innate sense about technology: that computers don't have to be ugly and dull.
Certainly this film gives us a sense of the man, or at least some part of the man, but it fails to tell the story well enough to satisfy. The progress of the young Apple company is fitfully told and most of what happens is off screen; we are told about it. Some of it simply inaccessible conversation, and none of the key milestones are told in any cinematically satisfying way. Why on earth would we watch a sequence of computer memory boards being assembled under rousing music?
The same perfunctory approach is applied to the latter part of the story where the corporate conflicts take place. Yet throughout, Kutcher defies the film's gravity and floats into the rarified air of a being who knows where he wants to take his dream, and drives everyone around him to carry his wishes forward.
We may not have liked Steve Jobs as a person to work for, and we may not have liked him socially, but we do admire his ability to change the world of computing by injecting style, humanity and functionality in one sleek, simple to use package.
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CAST: Ashton Kutcher, James Woods, Josh Gad, Matthew Modine, Dermot Mulroney, Amanda Crew, Lucas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Lesley-Ann Warren, Annika Berdea, John Getz
PRODUCER: Mark Hulme
DIRECTOR: Joshua Michael Stern
SCRIPT: Matt Whiteley
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Carpenter
EDITOR: Robert Komatsu
MUSIC: John Debney
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Freddy Waff
RUNNING TIME: 127 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Pinnacle
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 29, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.