Imagine if they made a movie with Ashton Kutcher, and they gave it ALL OF THE TAGLINES!
“It’s not just a music player, it’s a tool for the heart.”
“Who has a baby and throws it away?”
“You’re damn good, but you’re an asshole.”
“I just can’t work for other people!”
“I want to put a dent in the universe!”
“Nobody wants to buy a computer!” “But this is the wheel! This is freedom!”
“We don’t. Stop. Innovating.”
“Everything. Is a pressing. Issue.”
“He’s like a kid in a candy store, and we’ve given him the keys!”
OH F*CK, STEVE JOBS IS GOING TO KEY ALL OF THE CANDY! SHUT IT DOWN, HE’S TOO MUCH OF A REVOLUTIONARY!
Welcome to Jobs, a film composed entirely of taglines and symbolic turning points telling the fourth grade history book version of Steve Jobs using the biopic playbook from 1998. It’s basically a list of bullet points on fast forward, like it’s in a hurry to get to the credits montage with side-by-sides. MY GOODNESS, LOOK HOW MUCH THE ACTORS LOOK LIKE THE PEOPLE!
And in case you forget that Ashton Kutcher is playing Steve Jobs, they say “Steve” no less than 73 times.
It opens with Steve Jobs – played by Ashton Kutcher, who, I don’t know if you know this or not, totally kind of looks like Steve Jobs – introducing the iPod at an Apple Town Hall meeting in 2001. He calls the iPod a “tool for the heart,” and the movie treats this announcement with lens flares, soaring strings, tinkling pianos, and generally with the kind of reverence normally reserved for “Ask not what your country can do for you…”
Kelso Jobs smirks humbly, and the crowd gives him a standing ovation. So, so brave. Then it flashes back to Steve Jobs’ college days, when he was dropping acid and dropping out, only daydreaming about one day changing the world with music-playing heart tools.
Yes, this is a movie that thinks “a tool for the heart” is not only an accurate description of a device that plays music, but should be celebrated. It’s a junior high term paper about Steve Jobs, using Apple’s marketing materials as the main source, answering the unasked question, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MYTHOS?!
On the plus side, it is often hilarious.
Let me see if I can describe the basic structure:
RIDICULOUSLY GRANDIOSE SPEECH ABOUT APPLE PRODUCT!
OVATION, STRING MUSIC!
“YOU’RE TOO BRASH, STEVE JOBS, IT’LL NEVER WORK!”
SOMEONE SLAMS A PHONE DOWN IN ANGER!
“YOU’RE TOO AHEAD OF YOUR TIME, STEVE JOBS!”
Somewhere in there, there’ll be a long tracking shot of Kelso Jobs, walking through Apple headquarters doing this weird, cock-armed shuffle walk that you know he saw Steve Jobs do in one video and practiced every day for the next six months, bless his heart. Poor guy, neither him nor the filmmakers seem to know that there’s more to a person than ambition and EMOTING!
Jobs ticks off every box in the hero’s journey biopic checklist – making phone calls, crossing names off lists, screaming at underlings, screaming at doubters, screaming at competitors, screaming at the sky about being doubted, angrily muttering threats, tearful realizations, tearful triumphs, triumphant smirks…
There’s one scene where, after being forced out at Apple, Steve Jobs drives back to his childhood home – in pouring rain, of course, even though the house is in Palo Alto, which is not known for its thunderstorms – to look around the garage where the first Apple computers were built and WONDER WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG. The scene ends with Kelso Jobs sobbing in his father’s arms, his whole body shaking up and down like he’s in a vibra-chair in one of the funniest scenes I’ve seen all summer.
In another scene, Jobs is trying and failing to work his discman, basically hitting it with a bone like a gorilla in 2001 or the dad in the “there’s gotta be an easier way!” portion of an infomercial, before muttering “piece of junk” and chucking it in the trash. Get it? INSPIRATION! The world needed a revolution like the iPod, because they couldn’t work their Discmans!
The amazing thing about Jobs is that it gets through a whole movie about Steve Jobs without ever really explaining what he did or why the products he created were supposedly revolutionary, other than the surface level marketing copy, like “it’s a tool for the heart!” and “it’s the natural extension of the individual!” Hey. You guys realize those soundbites have zero substantive meaning, right? Please tell me you do.
There’s a big montage of Jobs and crew building the Apple 2 in their garage, and then they show up to the computer expo in San Francisco in 1976, and the camera tracks through a big convention hall full of other computer exhibits on the way to theirs. The other computers look… well, basically a lot like the one Apple was building, based on what the movie has told us thus far. Why was Apple’s better? They never tell us, we just get Steve Jobs smirking again while the whole building applauds and the camera pulls away in a crane shot. IT’S A TRIUMPH BECAUSE WE SAID SO!
We see Steve Jobs kick his baby mama out of his house and deny having a daughter for years, and then we flash forward and that same daughter is now a teenager sleeping on his couch, like a regular family. Is that what you call a “warts and all” portrayal? “He pretended he didn’t have a daughter, but yadda yadda yadda, maybe it all worked out for some reason!”
The movie ends (SPOILER ALERT, I GUESS) with Steve Jobs in a recording studio, struggling to keep his voice from breaking as he reads the copy for the ‘Think Different’ ad campaign: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes…”
CRYING WHILE HE READS A F*CKING AD CAMPAIGN. THAT IS THE CLIMAX OF THE MOVIE. And that commercial, mind you, was the one with the montage of people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Because those are the kinds of people who would use Apple computers if they were still alive, obviously. I’m typing this on my Macbook right now, because obviously I’m a cross between Jesus and Schwarzenegger.
Maybe it’s fitting that a guy who seemed mostly like a brilliant marketer gets a movie about him that’s nothing but a series of marketing tricks, used to glorify marketing itself. As unintentional art, it’s almost brilliant. Almost.