Paul Jobs, a salt of the earth mechanic, told his young son while they were building a fence together “you got to make the back of the fence that nobody will see just as good looking as the front of the fence.” This simple exchange would be one of the defining moments in Steve Jobs life, which with a manic intensity devoted himself to every product he designed. Take away the ingenuity, integrity, and artistic drive that motivated Jobs and you are left with Joshua Michael Stern’s film version of his life.
David Fincher, who was given a far less dynamic figure in Mark Zuckerberg, took a subject matter that had all the trappings of an afterschool special, and made it into a sophisticated and edgy drama. With a score composed by Trent Reznor and the innovative editing team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) Fincher’s product had a sleekness and design so unique that The Social Network has been deemed the post internet era’s Citizen Kane.
Stern, who is responsible for such disasters as Swing Vote and The Contractor staring Wesley Snipes, unlike Fincher, is intimidated by his product and rightly so. Jobs, perhaps the most dynamic and interesting person of the 20th and 21stcentury, deserves a tour de force. Unfortunately Jobs is the Tour De France— after the world found out Lance Armstrong was drinking the Bernie Madolf Kool Aid—with no genuine inspiration for its audience to take part in. It seems as though the appropriate culprit for such a failure would be Ashton Kutcher, but Kutcher with all of his good looks and bravado actually makes an appealing Steve Jobs. We forgot about That 70s Show, the silly Nikon commercials, and even Dude Where’s My Car if that’s even possible? Kutcher has the charisma to carry this film, Stern just doesn’t know what to do with him.
The film begins as Jobs introduces the first iPod in 2001, with a translucent light over his head and the camera following Jobs as he greets a large audience of revelers; this sentimental introduction permeates throughout the film. With scene’s that are very safe and chronological, thinly supported by a score more appropriate for a lifetime movie, Jobs never let’s us become acquainted with the real man. We see this in a particular scene where a college-age Jobs is tripping on acid, which becomes a ridiculous montage of yoga moves, calligraphy and a trip to India.
It’s perplexing how a filmmaker who took his crew to India in order to shoot these scenes would scramble them together in an acid omelet, rather than focus on a particular event in his travels that might have changed Jobs perspective and eventually propelled him towards greatness? Jobs life should never be diluted down to a montage, particularly his insightfulness, which not only influenced his products but his many converts as well. The performances in the film are good and the movie is watchable (sort of), but just as Jobs proclaimed in the film, fine is not acceptable! Unlike its subject this film has no style and nothing unique to share.
Jobs deserves his great biopic and with the best-selling book, Steve Jobs, written with his cooperation by acclaimed biographer and former managing editor of Time magazine, Walter Isaacson, there is no question he will get it, but this ain’t it.
Update: On 2/26/14 The Hollywood Reporter broke the story that David Fincher will be directing a biopic based on the Isaacson book, which will be penned by Aaron Sorkin. Dreams really do come true!
On October 15th it was reported that Danny Boyle will direct the film while Christian Bale is in talks to play Jobs after Leo backed out. On October 14th wile being interviewed on The Howard Stern Show, Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) told Stern that he auditioned for the part of Steve Wozniak, but after receiving “30 pages of sides” to read from, he sweat through his shirt and bodged the audition.
Ike is a treasure, especially for Stern Show superfans, see the entire interview here:
“The REAL Steve Job’s movie, not the fucking Ashton Kutcher one.”