Regardless of how familiar you are with the life of any particular subject, when you’re watching a bio-pic you’re ultimately hoping for some emotional insight into the person behind the pop-culture facade. However in the wake of watching jOBS (and even in the process of formulating an opinion about the film) I feel suffocated into a haze of numbness. The first of the inevitable biopic of the America’s technology icon Steve Jobs is an aesthetically ugly, structurally formulaic, glorified tele-movie.
jOBS charts what director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Matt Whiteley have deemed to be his definitive years. From humble beginnings in his adopted parents’ garage, his personal rise, fall and rise again to the forefront of technological innovation at the company he created (purposefully omitting his years away from Apple). Technological pioneer as he was, there are regrettable business and ethical decisions that pepper his fiery youth. However instead of being able to join the dots between the tyrannical, dictatorial boss and ‘Tech Yoda’ in a focused, dramatically intimate impression of his life — you see a collage of moments that leave you feeling like you’ve watch what happened to Kelso, Ashton Kutcher’s character from THAT 70s Show.
Kutcher getting cast as Jobs was a decision teetering between inspired and abhorrent. He uncannily convey’s Jobs’ physical presence — but as the old proverb says,”a good look-a-like, doesn’t a good biopic make.” He’s not given a chance to bring those affective revelatory moments to his portrayal of the when the script and direction is cripplingly bad. While there’s a pretty impressive support cast, it’s essentially a carousel of cameos.
Whiteley takes tidbits of Jobs’ life and clumsily stitches them together. When you’re not listening to an appropriated regurgitation of Jobs plethora of keynote addresses to ‘feel’ inspired you’re being alienated from Jobs’ antisocial behaviour (demonstrated by Kutcher driving alone and screaming behind the wheel or ‘iRoadRage’). Stern’s (mis)direction is best summed up when Kutcher’s Jobs drops acid and spins around in a rolling vale of wheat grass that is spliced with spiritual journey to India. The result ISN’T a harmony of spiritual and metaphysical enlightenment; it feels like a bad George Harrison film clip idea in during his LCD/sitar years.
And despite a hefty running time it’s essentially superficiality ‘water torture’. jOBS is consumed with illuminating his fall from Apple when the years that shaped him into the figure that we’ve all come to know and admire happen between his Apple dynasties.
jOBS demonstrates the difference between a great impression and an inspired performance.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern
Written by: Matt Whiteley
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, Matthew Modine, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren