Last January’s Sundance reactions to Joshua Michael Stern‘s JOBS (Open Road, 8.16), which I saw last night at the L.A. Live premiere, indicated I might feel underwhelmed or even irked. But I wanted to savor some of that old-time Cupertino Steve Jobs hey-hey. I knew JOBS wouldn’t be The Social Network but I was into it anyway because Apple technology is threaded into every aspect of my life except for vocal conversations, eating, exercise, sleeping, cat-petting, laundry-cleaning, bike-riding, grocery-shopping, cafe-sitting and amour, and it makes me happy every day. So I went in saying “look, just don’t piss me off…that’s all I’m asking…just don’t piss me off.” And it didn’t.
I found JOBS mildly acceptable and intriguing here and there. It feels TV-movie-ish and low-budgety, yes, but not oppressively so. It’s not that much of a problem. I didn’t feel burned. If I had directed it I would have found some way to include Jobs’ dying words — “Oh, wow! Oh, wow! Oh, wow!” — but that’s me.
I wish that Stern, whose soft voice and mushy, pussified way of speaking during the pre-screening introduction gave me concern, hadn’t attempted to massage and emotionalize a story and a lead character that cries out for a hardcore, ultra-geeky Aaron Sorkin electric drill-bit approach. But it’s okay. I went along with it, I mean.
JOBS hits the expected marks by telling us over and over that (a) the late Apple-founding visionary was a demanding hardcase with crappy people skills and (b) he wasn’t the greatest businessman in the ’80s either (the super-profit glory days happened in the 21st Century with iPod/iMac/Macbook Pro/iPhone and iPad) and (c) he wasn’t much of a dad or a relationship nurturer. But we all know this going in, right? Genius types tend to be inept or clumsy or indifferent when it comes to relationships or team-leading so it’s not exactly riveting to see this point made repeatedly. “Jesus, Steve, you’re spending way too much money on R & D…you have a daughter who’s writing you letters, Steve…you could do with less yelling at employees and partners,” etc.
Ashton Kutcher‘s performance as Jobs is reasonably okay as far as it goes. He glares a lot but that works in this context. He’s not trying to play a charming guy in a movie-star fashion — he’s playing a kind of human buzzsaw. I have despised Josh Gad in the past but I have to say he gives the least offensive performance of his career as Apple technology creator and engineer Steve Wozniak. Also fine in distinctive if abbreviated supporting parts are Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine, J. K. Simmons, Ron Eldard, Lukas Haas, John Getz, Lesley Ann Warren (who doesn’t even have a line!) and James Woods.
JOBS‘ Rotten Tomatoes rating is in the 40s but that could change between now and Friday.
I’ve never seen Martyn Burke‘s Pirates of Silicon Valley (’99), about the rivalry between Jobs and Bill Gates, but a friend says it’s pretty good. It’s purchasable on YouTube for next to nothing.