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Review: Kutcher downloads a decent performance in Jobs

Posted by on August 16, 2013 – 12:01 am

JobsIf you are an Apple or Macintosh fan, then you are probably going to appreciate the new film about the company’s founder and visionary, Steve Jobs, a lot more than I did – or, depending on the movie’s accuracy, maybe not. Nevertheless, as a PC guy (and John Hodgman fan) I still found “Jobs” to be an interesting biography and history lesson about the man and the business during the pre-iPod days. Ashton Kutcher also delivers a very good performance as the iconic Apple mastermind.

I don’t know a lot about Steve Jobs or Apple, but one has to assume that Hollywood has taken liberties regarding the true-life events on which “Jobs” is based. Was the man really the absolute jerk and wannabe Jesus that he is portrayed to be in this movie? Regardless, his character’s bravado and anger issues make for some decent drama in the otherwise dull world of computer manufacturing and Silicon Valley boardrooms.

Directed by Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) and written by newcomer Matt Whiteley, the film starts with Jobs as a college dropout who is wandering the campus in his bare feet, doing drugs, hitting on girls and spreading hippie wisdom. I was ready to check-out after the first fifteen-minutes of this story, which also has Jobs visiting India on some sort of journey of enlightenment, but fortunately it gets better after this rather wacky beginning – so hang in there.

Although Jobs lacks any real technical expertise, he does have a talent for figuring out what people want, even before they know they want it, and he also proves to be proficient in getting others to follow his vision. So after conning a friend, Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad), into completing an electronics project for him, he notices what turns out to be a prototype for the world’s first personal computer sitting on Wozniak’s desk; and before you can say, “byte,” the two entrepreneurs have set up shop in Jobs’ garage and have a contract to produce the gizmos for the local electronics store.

JobsAfter hiring several employees to complete the contract, the team finds an outside investor, Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney), and they start work on the Apple II computer system. The rest of the film depicts Apple’s and Jobs’ rise and fall in the cutthroat personal computer industry that they started, ending with Jobs once again taking control of his company and laying the groundwork to bring Apple back from the ashes.

The film is capped with Jobs’ well known “Here’s to the crazy ones.” mantra, which I believe he lifted from George Bernard Shaw, who proclaimed, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

From what I can tell from this film, just like he improved on the Shaw quote above, Jobs’ method of operation was to borrow/take others ideas and enhance them, throw his own visionary spin on them, often making them better or more palatable, and then capitalizing on those changes.

Now, I’m not a Steve Jobs or Apple hater, or a computer historian, I’m just calling it as I observed in this film, which overall was an amusing story with very good performances, not only by Kutcher (Who knew he could act?), but also including Matthew Modine as Apple CEO John Sculley and J.K. Simmons as an uptight Apple board member.

As I’ve said, I can’t account for how much of the movie is accurate, and it has the air of a cable television biopic. This is far from a perfect film, but it is still entertaining and informative for anyone who is interested in computer industry history or the flawed cultural icon that was/is Steve Jobs. Grade: 6/10

Photos © 2013 Open Road Films