wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
The first big screen adaptation on the life and times of Steve Jobs can only be described as a disappointment. By not knowing what to include and what to exclude, director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Matt Whiteley fall way short of capturing even a bit of the essence of the legendary Apple founder. Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs is earnest, but doesn’t quite do full justiceRead more
There is no escaping this undeniable truth; if you use a personal computer or a smartphone – no matter what the brand or the operating system – it means that your life has been touched by Steve Jobs. And those are just two of the many, many fields of technology, innovation and creativity that the man has had an indelible impact on.
Considering his charisma, the phenomenal graph of his story, the anecdotes and myths that surround him and the sheer legend that he became in life and in death, it would seem that making a terrific biopic on him would be a breeze. Well, apparently not.
Joshua Michael Stern’s screen adaptation of the life and times of Steve Jobs is a bit of a mess. A superficial account of one of our most iconic contemporary figures, it proceeds like a soulless, humourless recounting of some key incidents and moments in Jobs’ life, without ever pausing to give the viewer even an ounce of insight into what actually made the man tick; what drove him to push everyone around to churn out their best and innovate, not electronic gadgets, but life extensions.
Yes, Steven Jobs visited India early in his life, started Apple Computer in a garage, was forced to quit the company he co-founded and then returned in grand fashion and turned it around to make Apple the most valuable company in the world. Stern and writer Matt Whiteley seem to have said to themselves, “We know all this. Let’s just make a film!”
When you even read, hear or talk about Steve Jobs, you’re usually enthralled, impressed, confounded and inspired. It seems so strange to think filmmakers, with every audio-visual tool at their disposal to evoke emotions from viewers, can fail with a character that, through countless experiences of its life, seems tailor-made for not one but multiple screen portrayals.
The key problem with Jobs is that of the choices – what to include in the film, how to treat it, how the narrative must be structured – it seems like none of these were paid any thought or attention to. Like the rest of us, the makers of the film assumed that Steve Jobs himself would power the film through. Clearly, the film subtracts from the great man, rather than adding to his persona in any manner.
Considering how Ashton Kutcher was always a suspect choice to play Steve Jobs – he’s never really been able to break away from being Kelso – he was about the only thing that at least makes you wait till the end of the film. His physical transformation is remarkable, even though he doesn’t nearly capture the essence of Steve Jobs. His expressions – pursed smile, pursed frown, pursed everything – do give off the impression that he was trying too hard to ‘be’. That becomes even more apparent with his gangly gait that is often shown in the film. Every other side character in the film is merely functional.
Kutcher earns the film some brownie points, but nothing can take away from the fact that Jobs is one of the most disappointing films in recent times, particularly considering the fact that I actually was really intrigued by the trailer of the film. The good news, of course, is that we still have Aaron Sorkin’s version to look forward to.
Perhaps the person most disappointed with Jobs would have been Steve Jobs himself. For someone whose key mantra was innovation, his description of the banal treatment of his life story would probably have been the one word he always seemed likely to say. Sh*t.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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