By now you might be aware that Ashton Kutcher is playing the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in the Jobs biopic. It's pretty hard to miss, besides early rumblings of disbelief when the news was announced, and its closing at Sundance, Open Road Films has taken a pretty penny out to promote director Joshua Michael Stern's lightweight biopic across the internet on Google plus, Twitter, and Instagram. Surely it's a campaign to match what's said to be a revolutionary film. After all, it has managed to do the impossible, by turning Kutcher from romcom King to a true performer. All of the commercials suggest that this is Ashton Kutcher, the "serious" actor, and not Kelso from That 70's Show. So should you believe the hype? As far as Ashton Kutcher is concerned, you should buy the hype. As for the rest of it, just take it with a grain of salt.
Most of Stern's efforts at handling a Jobs biopic at best is an overly formulaic paint by numbers film that's often disjointed. The film begins at 2001, and then jumps to 1978 where Jobs barely attends Reed College, to 1976 where he works at Atari and pisses people off, to 1977 at a computer fair where he introduces the Apple 2, and so on and so forth. Each brief period had an adequate music selection that jives well with the year, and we see a distinguishable change in appearance for Jobs, but we are no closer to unraveling the mystery behind Steve Jobs' frustrating actions, or his so-called insights.
Apple enthusiasts beware -- this is not your beloved Steve Jobs, who stood at Apple Town Hall meetings in his black turtleneck to introduce his latest invention. While we do get a glimpse of that Jobs, it doesn't last for long. Instead we get an exaggerated characterization of Jobs, that seems to be a one-sided perspective of an immature, cheating, selfish, lying man whose inventions are created on the backs of those around him. While it's understood that Jobs shouldn't be romanticized, as there is record of his unfavorable sides, in the end we still rooted for Steve Jobs. In Stern's version, Jobs is nothing more than a spoiled brat who may or may not suffer from OCD, and a severe case of social anxiety. In short this Steve Jobs proves to be the most irredeemable character in an otherwise commendable turn for Kutcher.
With that said, here's a few points to make about Ashton Kutcher's Steve Jobs:
1. Steve Jobs was a hippie that took LSD.
While there are reports that Jobs took LSD, we really didn't see this Steve in the public eye. The hipsters of today would have sipped Jobs' kool-aid in a second, as he hilariously rambles to himself, and drops LSD like it's nothing. A barefoot Jobs has some fun walking around campus, and barely audits a few classes before skipping them to hear a guru speak on the quad. There's also a very brief scene in India that shows no reflection of spirituality rather than that's where Steve was in that moment in time.
2. He has no social graces.
Picture Jesse Eisenberg's performance in The Social Network, but without the charm and that's what you have from this version of Steve Jobs. There's being socially challenged and then there's well, being an ass. Jobs is seen working at Atari and screaming at his fellow employees as their techniques are not up to his standard. For someone who at this point is just starting out as a technician, his ego is already inflated, and it doesn't let up for the employees under his guidance.
3. He regularly berated employees.
While Steve Jobs had a 95 percent approval rating from 2010 to 2011, this Steve Jobs stalks the hallways as his employees cower in fear of feeling his wrath. Jobs has no qualms about admitting how expendable his employees are, and that isn't just limited to the bottom feeders. When Apple builds its empire, he has demoted essentially everyone who helped him work on the first concept board in his father's garage without a second thought. In one scene he berated and fires his best employee because he failed to see the importance of fonts.
4. Jobs was a horrible businessman.
It's not a surprise that Steve Jobs was a horrible businessman, but for those who aren't familiar with the well-documented trades, it will come as a shock as to just how bad of a businessman he was. Kutcher's Steve makes shoddy deals behind best friend Steve Wozniak's back, by promising more than Woz can handle or produce. He also claims credit for figuring out the circuits on a board for Atari, when he had called up Woz to do all of the heavy lifting. It's an understatement to say Steve was greedy, as he gave no stock options to his friends that helped him build Apple from the ground up, and often pocketed money in the early days. Although Jobs felt the company was stolen from him, the audience feels his misguided decisions as he's ousted out his own company in 1985.
5. Steve Jobs is his own worst enemy.
Whether it was said by his second in command Mike Markkula (Dermont Mulroney) or his best friend Steve Wozniak (played terrifically by Josh Gad), Steve Jobs was his own worst enemy. He cheated on his girlfriend, denied that she was pregnant with his child, and made decisions to isolate himself from his peers, which ultimately led to Jobs spending much of his 20s, and 30s, in turmoil. It's why a large amount of the film begs for empathy from the audience, but can never quite conjure enough reason as to "why" it should be given to this particular characterization.
JOBS IS OUT IN THEATERS FRIDAY, AUGUST 16.