The true story of one of the most famous entrepreneurs in American history, jOBS chronicles the defining 30 years of Steve Jobs’ life.
To call jOBS [sic] a 'fawning hagiography’ is to downplay the unbridled enthusiasm that the makers of this biography seem to harbour for their subject, the late Apple founder and tech pioneer, Steve Jobs.
Jobs’ status as a cultural icon was cemented well before his passing in 2011, but the event resulted in unprecedented outpourings of public emotion for a deceased company director. It was rightly noted at the time that much of the public eulogising was likely facilitated by the devices that Jobs’ company created; such was his impact on the daily lives of consumers.
Matt Whiteley’s clumsy script attempts to sync Jobs’ personal story with the corporate history of his brand... and, as affirmed Android/PC users will gladly tell you, syncing with Apple can be problematic at the best of times.
Aspects of Jobs’ biography are hinted at, but only insofar as said events culminated in an Apple Computing product release. The balance is way off, and inconvenient truths that might shade this story as anything other than one hero’s journey (back) to the top of the corporate apex, are skimmed over or revised - if not eliminated completely.
The film opens on a hushed auditorium at Apple HQ some time in 2001, as Steve Jobs takes the stage and brandishes aloft a first-generation iPod. 'It’s a music player", he proclaims, and his employees give him (and it, and maybe each other, but mostly just him), a standing ovation. Their applause sets the tone for the adulated backstory that ensues, which sketches out with dull predictability: how Steve’s savvy genius shaped the company into the world’s most powerful brand; how Steve’s misunderstood genius lost him the company when the money men failed to back him; and finally, how Steve’s humbled, revitalised genius got him his company – and his groove – back.
Disappointingly, there is little insight into the person the film is supposedly named for, and an overemphasis on the shiny fruits of his labours; the film merely implores its audience to rejoice in the resumé of Apple's dear leader. (I’m only half-joking when I wonder whether the title might actually have a double meaning. It would make for a very good Apple recruitment video).
Ashton Kutcher does as much as he can with middling material; he makes for a very believable lookalike of the ageing entrepreneur, and apes Job’s lurching gait – distractingly so (given all of the other Jobs traits that they chose to cut back, they could have toned that down a tad).
But Kutcher flounders amid the silly set-ups: he looks plain ridiculous conducting an imagined orchestra of his mind, in an ill-conceived LSD-trip sequence that takes place in a field of tall grass. Mostly, we just watch others watch him, as he serves up one stirring speech after another to random assemblies, rousing his wide-eyed disciples to 'dare to dream’. Would that the film’s makers had taken notice of the advice, this film might have risen above the dramatic arc of a lousy telemovie.