Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern

Starring:  Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J.K. Simmons, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, Ahna O’Reilly, John Getz, James Woods, and Matthew Modine

Believe it or not, I did not have any interest in seeing a film about Steve Jobs.  While I respect his legacy and the impact he has had on my life, I was not exactly doing cartwheels when I was tasked with reviewing the film. Sure, I have seen Toy Story, used an iPod, an iPad, a personal computer, and have otherwise benefited from Jobs’ innovation.  However, I was still not enthusiastic about seeing a biopic about Jobs.  Surprisingly, I found the film to be quite interesting.  I know that it has been widely panned by other critics, but Jobs is a compelling, unflinching look at a businessman who certainly put a dent in the universe.

The film chronicles Steve Jobs’ (Ashton Kutcher) career up until the launch of the iPod.  Jobs begins the film as a philosophical hippie in the early 1970s.  He initially attends college, but believes that it is a waste of his parents’ money and he drops out.  Jobs is content to walk around campus barefoot, audit some calligraphy classes, take LSD with his friends and drift through life.  After a sojourn through India, Jobs realizes that he has to make a living, and he starts working for Atari.  At Atari, he has major issues – he yells at colleagues, he is insulting, he smells and he does not take instructions well.  Ultimately, he knows that he can never work for anyone else and needs to be his own boss. 

Jobs has a vision of how he sees the world.  He knows what he wants to do, but he lacks the technical skills to get there.  Enter Steve Wozniak a.k.a. Woz (Josh Gad).  Woz and Jobs are friends, and Woz has created a way to revolutionize personal computers.  However, where Woz has the technical skills, he lacks the business prowess and the presence of Jobs.  Together, Jobs and Woz are a formidable team.  With a ragtag group of friends, they develop a small company which leads to the invention of the first Apple computer.  Eventually, they are able to find an investor Mike Markkula (Matthew Modine), and Apple is catapulted to the next level.  However, Jobs’ journey is not without its challenges.  Jobs is ruthless in both his personal and business lives.  Jobs coldly abandons his pregnant girlfriend and rejects his daughter.  Additionally, he mistreats employees, even those who helped him start the company.  He constantly is at odds with anyone who seeks to limit his vision in any way, and his attitude ostracizes many of those around him.

Jobs is an entertaining film.  The movie paints a picture of Jobs as someone who thought completely outside of the box, and had a huge vision.  But he was also incredibly flawed.  Egomaniacal, narcissistic, selfish, greedy, cold—these are all adjectives that would aptly describe the film’s depiction of Jobs.  He appeared to care only about his vision, his wants and his needs and thought nothing of treating everyone else around him like they were complete idiots or mere minions there to do his bidding.  At the same time, his passion, his ambition, his uncompromising nature, and his confident commitment to what he believed in, are what drove him to unbelievable heights.  He is depicted as a man that you wouldn’t like, but you definitely had to respect.

While I had my doubts about casting Kutcher as Jobs, he actually did a solid job.   Because the focus of the film was on Jobs’ younger years, Kutcher was believable in the role, and he actually looks a lot like Jobs. I was slightly distracted by Kutcher’s hunched over/bouncy Jobs’ gait and his ever-evolving hairstyles, but he brought a manic intensity to the role.  Kutcher plays Jobs with the right amount of anger, arrogance, and borderline insanity.   That being said, I never forgot that I was watching Ashton Kutcher even though I cannot fault his performance.  It could be my error, Kutcher’s fame or Jobs’ notoriety, but I never quite lost myself in the illusion that Kutcher was Jobs.  The supporting cast delivers.  Josh Gad as Woz particularly stands out, and he serves as a moral compass in the film.

My chief criticism of Jobs would be that I wanted to know more about Jobs’ personal life and his personal journey.  I respect that the filmmakers wanted to focus on one particular aspect of Jobs’ life.  However, there are glimpses of Jobs’ personal life in the film, and I believe there is a real story there.  For instance, Jobs was adopted and he felt abandoned by his biological parents.  But when his girlfriend became pregnant, he ruthlessly kicked her out of their home and rejected his daughter even when paternity tests proved that she was his daughter.  Eventually, he reconciled with his daughter when she was older, but we never find out how or why.  We are just left to assume that there was some personal evolution for Jobs.  He had some real personal demons that simply go unexplored in the film.  I understand there is another Jobs film that is in the works that is authorized by his family.  Perhaps the other film will provide a more complete picture of Jobs’ personal journey.

All in all, I found Jobs to be an intriguing film, and it left me wanting to know more about Steve Jobs.  I think his life is a fascinating story of a pure triumph of will, hard work and creativity.  Jobs earns a 0.03% rating.