JOBS. Starring Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Lukas Haas, J,K.Simmons, Matthey Modine, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Eldard, James Woods, John Getz, Victor Rasuk, Eldon Henson. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Rated M (Coarse language and drug references). 127 minutes.
Jobs is a very interesting film to watch. But, this is particularly because of its portrayal of the development and history of Apple. It is also interesting, in a negative kind of way, in its portrayal of the character of Steve Jobs himself. He was a very significant figure of the 20th century, the film having the courage to simply entitle itself, Jobs, rather than Steve Jobs. Everyone is expected to know who Jobs was and something of what he achieved.
The film opens at an Apple staff meeting in 2001. Steve Jobs shuffles in his characteristic, slightly Neanderthal, stooped way of walking. He addresses his troops, challenges them, promises them something creative and new, the iPod, and energises their enthusiasm by giving statistics about how many items were sold, millions of them, in that year. By the end, we realise that this is something of a thumbnail sketch of Job’s biography.
But then the film goes back to the mid-1970s, Jobs as a young man, inventive and managerial, but unable to settle down to his formal studies. With his good friend, Daniel, he travels to India. Though we don’t quite see how, it has something of a transforming effect on the young Jobs. He returns and knuckles down to hard work. It seems he has found himself, at home in the developing information technology world.
At this stage, the review should include some praise for its star, Ashton Kutcher. Most audiences would see Kutcher as a lightweight, a performer in romantic comedies or some thrillers, as well as on television in Two and a half Men. However, in that opening sequence, made up to look like Jobs and giving his speech, we realise that this is a much better Kutcher performance. But then we go back to the young man and see the Kutcher with whom we are familiar. But, as the film progresses, he immerses himself in the role and we appreciate that we are looking at an excellent portrayal of Steve Jobs.
It is legend that he set up the Apple Company in his father’s garage. He befriends Steve Wozniak, computer whiz who saw something of the future in developing the personal computer and the computer screen and data storage. Along with other friends, including Daniel, they start working to fulfil an order from a local store. With the order somewhat incomplete, we begin to see that Jobs is something of a wheeler dealer in his words and in his performance. At this stage, a businessman decides to invest some thousands in Apple and the company is on the way.
Daniel is played by Lukas Haas. Steve Wozniak is played by Josh Gad. The investor is played by Dermot Mulroney.
The prospects for Steve Jobs seemed limitless. However, on a personal level, he becomes more and of more a repellent human being. He discards his friends easily. When offering stock options, he doesn’t include them because he considers that they have not worked up to the standard for deserving them. A young woman claims that a child is his and he rejects her with chilling nonchalance. Later, he will take care of this daughter. But, although we see scenes of his domestic life, a wife and a child, women did not play a very large part in his life.
Of course, it is rather exhilarating to see Jobs and his success, immersing himself more and more in the American capitalist dream, and achieving. With Steve Wozniak and an increasingly large number of protégés, he is continually inventive, developing the Macintosh for instance. But, in his personality, he is a perfectionist and ruthlessly intolerant of those who do not measure up to his expectations. They can just get out – and at once. He is able to hire and fire without a grimace.
But in the nineties, members of the board became more and more hostile to his perfectionism, experiments, huge investments in development, and he is ousted from the board.
While he seems to mellow outside the board and his company, he spends some time at home. However, he is requested to come back to the company and, by a series of manoeuvres, and his old demanding style, he is reinstated.
There is an interesting cast members for characters during this period, J.K. Simmons as head of the board, Matthew Modine as the Pepsi Cola marketing expert called in to save Apple in the 1990s.
The film is significant in its presentation of the history of IT developments in the United States and the establishing of Apple. However, on a personal level, like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook in The Social Network, the central character, though a supreme achiever, is a very difficult human being.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out August 22 1013.