‘Jobs’: A mere reenactment

Carljoe Javier
Film is a checklist of significant moments in the life of Apple co-founder and tech pioneer

MANNERISMS. Kutcher as Jobs. Photo from the actor's Facebook

MANILA, Philippines – While the actual technological contributions that Steve Jobs made are still being argued, it can be said he was a genius in his own right.

Through his savvy at marketing, design sense, and the uncanny knack for knowing what customers wanted before they did, he created a name for himself as one of the great innovators of our time.

Couple his actual accomplishments with the torments of his personal life, the fact that he had a humiliating fall from grace, and a magical return to prominence, and you should have a pretty amazing story of a life.

There are many ways, gloried, celebrated, and loathed, that we could look at Steve Jobs.

That being said, “Jobs,” the biopic fails to explore these.

Full disclosure: I am a MacHead. And I admire Jobs. I’d read a couple of biographies, and then the voluminous Walter Isaacson book.

Because of what I knew of Steve Jobs, from reading, from watching his presentations (there is so much to be learned about making effective presentations just from watching old videos of him), I expected there to be a wealth of material in the film.

SEE: WebHits: Steve Jobs funniest moments

Reenactment

Instead, this film decides to make a kind of checklist of what it believes to be significant moments in Jobs’ life, and then reenacts them.

I have to admit that I always liked the sound bytes and sayings attributed to Jobs. And deployed even here in reenactment, they are effective.

Unnecessary are the sweeping camera movements and the rousing musical scores that accompany the various speeches and monologues.

The problem, I think, is that there wasn’t really an insight or approach to “Jobs” that was thought of. It was, again, just a reenactment of scenes in his life.

The film has a pretty wide scope, starting with his presentation of the iPod in 2001, flashing back to Jobs as a dropout at Reed College and going back to his return to Apple. But there’s a problem with this wide scope.

The art of the biopic

It’s of course going to be problematic to compress a person’s life – especially one as colorful as Jobs’ – into a feature film. You will necessarily cut things out and highlight other things.

The art of the biopic would be in the way that it chooses the aspects of the person’s life to present to us, and how presenting those aspects brings us to a new understanding of the subject.

But there is no new understanding to be had from “Jobs.” In its worst moments, the film turns Jobs into a cartoon character, with Ashton Kutcher playing up all of the tics and mannerisms that he became known for.

Kutcher does all right with this, and I can’t fault him for falling back on these things. The film fails to turn him into a person, really.

READ: Ashton Kutcher on Mila Kunis and Steve Jobs role

Among the flaws is this big narrative leap in the middle.

The film shows Jobs’ ouster from Apple. He leaves the company in disgrace. Jobs goes on to found NEXT, he buys a division of LucasArts that will eventually become Pixar, and he generally gets his personal life together, getting married and starting a family.

The problem is that none of this is shown in the film. First we see him as a mess, sobbing after losing his company. Then we see him as an older man, all settled and good.

The truest struggles of Jobs toward maturity and reaching a point in his life where he can actually run Apple are never shown. More screen time is devoted to scenes of him dropping acid and running around in a field than to showing him maturing.

I guess the problem is the project itself. What did they really want to do?

They show him screwing people over willy-nilly, but then in a weird little montage it brings them back in soft light and gives them all a nostalgic nod.

It has some of the significant people in Jobs’ life giving monologues and stuff. But then it cuts out such significant chunks.

“Jobs” feels like a bad school report. It’s like someone looked up his Wikipedia entry, picked out some parts, and decided to reenact those.

There isn’t any real understanding of the complex, immensely interesting man. And as such it fails to offer us anything. – Rappler.com

Here’s the trailer:

Carljoe Javier is an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman. As an undergraduate, he served as a member of the UP Samahan sa Agham Pampulitika. Before entering the academe he worked on a number of development projects concerned with capacity building for farmers, factory workers’ welfare, and OFW welfare. He currently teaches literature and creative writing

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