Steve Jobs is one of those rare CEO’s that people in his fraternity and otherwise loved, and some even idolized him. In the past year or so, since his unfortunate and untimely death and even before, several books have been written about him and his awe inspiring journey. Plus, in this age of iPhones and iPads every bit of information about his life is on our fingertips. So, crafting an engaging film about his life was always going to be tricky.
First-time screenwriter (for a feature film), Matt Whiteley, did the right thing by going back to the beginning. To the time in 1974 when Steve Jobs, a college dropout, and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computers in Jobs’ parents’ garage. The film follows all the trials and tribulations this duo faced during this period, leading up to 2001, when the iconic iPhone is about to be launched.
Now all that is great, but the one question that everyone had on mind when this film was first announced was – Who is going to play Steve Jobs? The answer turned out to be Ashton Kutcher! Kutcher (notwithstanding his investments in tech companies) is mostly known for playing goofball characters. So, will be able to play a complex character like Steve Jobs, with any kind of authority? Surprisingly, Kucther turns out to be perfect as Jobs. In fact he is the brightest point in this otherwise dull (for the lack of a better word) film.
Kutcher must have spent a lot of time watching videos of Jobs at news conferences and other events, and studied his posture, his way of walking and even his vocal modulations. And Kutcher nails each of them. He even gets his facial expressions eerily similar to the man. It helps matters that Kutcher has an uncanny resemblance to a young Steve Jobs. Satyajit Ray (the master director) had once said that he cast’s actor based on their similarity in looks to the character they were supposed to play, and if they did resemble the character that was half the battle won. Director Joshua Michael Stern seems to believe in that as well.
So, Kutcher is not the problem element in this film, as everyone had expected it to be. Instead the problem lies in everything that happens around him. Yes, Jobs is an enigmatic character, but to truly understand a man one needs to first understand his surroundings. And that’s where Jobs, the film, fails to a certain degree. Steve Wozniak (played by Josh Gad) was a vital cog in the Apple Computers juggernaut till he quit, yet in this film he is mere background. We barely get to known him, or for that matter any of the other important characters in the film, like ex-Intel engineer Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) and one-time Apple CEO John Sculley (Matthew Modine). The characters are either not fully developed or developed in a haphazard manner.
So, the film didn’t do complete justice is painting a true picture of Jobs’ professional life. Maybe it concentrated more on his personal life. And if you have read any of his official or unofficial biographies or simply read up about him on Wikipedia, you will know that there is lot to explore in this sphere as well. Yet, Matt Whiteley’s script is a letdown on even this count. There was opportunity to explore, for example, Jobs as a parent or even as a boyfriend/husband. Jobs had left his girlfriend Chris-Ann Brennan (played in the film by the beautiful Ahna O’Reilly) while she was pregnant with their daughter. In one scene we see Jobs cruel behavior towards Chris-Ann and then later on we suddenly see him leading a settled life with her and his now born daughter, Lisa. We have no idea about what happened in between and how they reconciled.
Having said that I must admit Jobs is not by any stretch a bad film. The film does present us an informative and in parts engaging look at the professional growth of the man. We watch him during his time at Hewlett-Packard, then his time at Atari, the brief period he spent at Next after being ousted by the board members at Apple, and then his eventual return to Apple. We also get glimpses at his time at Reed College and also the trippy trip to India. The India segment is extremely well shot by Aseem Bajaj, who also trained the camera for films like Bandit Queen, Chameli, and Khoya Khoya Chand.
But there is so much to know and explore about the life of Jobs that ultimately the film feels a bit patchy. It presents us few episodes from Jobs’ life and not his entire story, which might be unfair to expect. But then the script needed to tie together the bits they wanted to portray in a more fluidic manner.
VERDICT: You definitely need to watch this film. Firstly, for Ashton Kutcher’s brilliant performance as Steve Jobs and secondly, to watch some of the famous episodes in his life (like his phone conversation with Bill Gates) that you had only read about till now.
P.S: Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the script of The Social Network, is working on a Steve Jobs biopic as well, so you can expect more in the coming days.