Mark Reviews Movies



2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Joshua Michael Stern

Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, Ahna O'Reilly, Victor Rasuk, John Getz, Kevin Dunn, James Woods

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some drug content and brief strong language)

Running Time: 2:02

Release Date: 8/16/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 15, 2013

Jobs tells the story of the life of a man filtered through the story of the company he co-founded. The inherent suggestion is that Steve Jobs' life was defined by his work, but the movie doesn't really believe that argument. After all, there are a few scenes here and there that show Jobs outside of work. They aren't many, admittedly, but they are enough to convince us that the man had to manage a life apart from his work, even if that management came only in the form of ways to avoid having his personal life interfere with his professional one.

Those elements are one big tease in Matt Whiteley's screenplay. We see Jobs overcome with emotion at the thought of abandonment by his birth parents while tripping on LSD, and later, we see him abandoning his responsibility to be a parent when his girlfriend tells him she's pregnant—arguing that it might not be his even after a lawyer sits him down a few years later and tells him that a paternity test confirms it. He's fine with the idea of paying child support but is ready to give up his visitation rights. The attorney tells him to reconsider. It would be better to have the option later on than to regret a decision made from whatever is driving him now.

That's the big, unanswered question of Jobs as he's portrayed in the movie. What is driving this man? We can speculate based on the one scene of him lying on the ground, stoned on a psychedelic drug, and starting to cry over the thought of his biological parents. He may not care what other people think of him personally, but he sure as hell isn't going to go through life being a nobody.

To achieve this goal, Jobs, played in a cunning bit of impersonation by Ashton Kutcher, stands on the shoulders of other people with far more knowledge of technology, and when he believes those people have contributed all that they have to offer to his vision, he has no qualms brushing them aside to make way for others who will follow him without question. The movie doesn't sugarcoat the man's personality. There's a subtle moment in which Jobs introduces that infamous commercial inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four to his employees that sees his face projected on a giant screen like some kind of Big Brother himself (The second time the movie uses an advertisement is a cheap summation of the entire movie).

Before this, though, we see Jobs come from humble but privileged beginnings as a resident of Reed College in the early 1970s. He has since dropped out of school, but the dean of students (James Woods) encourages him to stay (sleeping on a couch in a common area) and drop in on whatever courses the young man deems worthwhile. Jobs attends a class on computers but quickly becomes bored and sneaks out; he is quite interested in calligraphy, though. During that acid trip and a subsequent trip to India with his friend Daniel Kottke (Lukas Haas), he has a vision for the future of his life.

What follows is a greatest hits compilation of his career and the rocky trajectory of Apple Computer (which has since removed the "Computer" from its name), which he co-founded with a couple of his friends while working on a revolutionary motherboard designed by Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). The company's first headquarters is in Jobs' parents' garage.

We already know from the college montage and a sequence of him working for a video game company (enlisting Wozniak to do most of the work on fixing a defective game and lying about how much money he's getting for the project) that Jobs has only a rudimentary understanding of technology. His real skills lie in his roles as salesman and a businessman. He may lurch through a room with his back hunched over and speak in a soft voice and with an almost rhythmic cadence, but when the owner of a computer store is ready to drop his purchase after Jobs and his co-workers show up with an incomplete product, Jobs convinces the owner of how he can make more money with what they're offering. When Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) arrives at the Jobs home ready to invest $90,000 into the startup company, Jobs argues that the amount of money is enough for what they need but not enough for what Markkula wants.

The movie goes on with highlights, always focusing on the connections Jobs makes and the bridges he burns without any regret. The people with whom he started working come and go (He punishes those he thinks have outlived their usefulness by denying them stock options when the company goes public), and they always point out how he's changed without ever explaining the kind of person he was in the first place. His ego gets the best of him, and he's dumped to the sidelines.

After a jump of over a decade, the movie finds a different Jobs—although not really, given that he orchestrates a coup similar to the one that ousted him—with a family—including, without any explanation, the daughter he disavowed—and a calmer demeanor. Jobs, which toys with the idea illuminating a man, ultimately shows that it's really only interested in solidifying him as a figurehead.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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