Review: The Shallow Intellectual Waters of 'Jobs'

Kutcher tries to capture the Apple founder's essence, but the script just isn't there.

By Mike Lydon August 16, 2013

Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs.

Our idols are usually people that we feel we don’t know enough about. Steve Jobs was one of these figures. His status as an impenetrable tech messiah is only perpetuated further by the new biopic Jobs, the latest attempt to canonize Apple’s CEO. The film covers the rise and… rise of Jobs as he develops Apple in his parents’ basement and loses the company, only to reclaim it and turn it into the industry giant it is today. While it strives to be a probing character study of an iconic innovator, Jobs is nothing more than a cinematic puff piece that uses biographical footnotes as a substitute for actual insight.

Ashton Kutcher delivers a surprisingly nuanced performance, accurately capturing Jobs’s posture and mannerisms. Unfortunately, an unadventurous script reduces what had the potential to be an Academy Award-worthy role into mere imitation. It’s just good enough to make the audience gawk at how much Kutcher physically resembles the deceased entrepreneur, but never allows the actor to embody the man. The script’s lack of conviction turns profound tirades of a driven perfectionist into temper tantrums and inspirational speeches into bland diatribes that only function to show how little ingenuity there is underneath the pretty language.

The story doesn’t flow as much as it does awkwardly lurch forward in time, glazing over what seem like important stepping stones in Apple’s assent to relevance, such as the establishment of their Cupertino campus. Essentially, the arc is that Steve Jobs is always right and the naysayers are always wrong. He removes everyone who doubts his supremacy with no consequences for his actions. The bubble of self-isolation in which Jobs immerses himself isn’t explored in any tangible way to make him a compelling subject.

This depiction of a young, tech-savvy group of anti-social geniuses invites comparison to 2010’s The Social Network, a much more scathing, and honest, film that speculated on technology’s role in the loneliness and alienation of our lives. That film’s screenplay writer, Aaron Sorkin, is supposedly working on an adaptation of Walter Isaacson's bestselling biography Steve Jobs. Perhaps he will be able to provide the aggressive narrative energy necessary to compellingly portray a character as complex and enigmatic as Jobs.

In the meantime, Jobs is a poor substitute: a disheartening exercise in hero worship. It embalms the Apple cofounder in the shroud of his own achievements, failing to inquire about the human fallibility that may have gone into them. Jobs has all the bite of one of Apple’s sterile 30-second TV spots, and ultimately it strives for the same goal: make the audience want to buy an iPod.

Jobs opens nationwide August 15.

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