Thursday, August 15, 2013

Jobs: a life in hissy fits and applause

At some point in his career people would just start applauding Steve Jobs before he even told them anything applause-worthy. Apparently he was just like that. Maybe people were just eager to be impressed. Maybe they were just scared. According to Jobs, besides being a human applause-prompter, Jobs was also a restless genius of bullying, a deadbeat dad, an impatient asshole incapable of empathizing with others (nervous investors included), a ruthless prick and a quasi-hippy whose habits of going everywhere barefoot and neglecting basic grooming died hard. The first scene of Jobs finds Jobs, to the sound of John Williams-style somber triumphalist scoring, introducing the first iPod, describing it as “a tool for the heart.” But did the Apple founder even have one? How accurately the Jobs of Jobs represents the real Jobs I couldn’t tell you. What matters for the purpose of this review is that you’re never going to get to know anyone, famous or not, through the graceless, impersonal bullet point/greatest hits approach to the bio-pic employed here. The kinks and nuances of persona are the first things to go. Jobs is crammed with event and devoid of character.

From smug college dropout to smug outlier at Atari to smug visionary business founder to smug titan of industry, Jobs sweeps us along the key steps in its protagonist’s rise to glory. The bit where he and his cohorts seek their first investors has an enjoyable giddiness, but mostly this is a laundry list over which haircuts and outfits gradually get more conservative and computers get more compact. The dialogue is mostly exposition, the camerawork fussy. Someone thought it a good idea to hire Ashton Kutcher. He clearly threw himself into the role of Jobs, but the role is roughly 50% impersonation (of Golem as much as Jobs) and 50% hissy fit. Kutcher freaks out a lot. Sometime quietly, other times like an infant volcano. He shakes, sputters, stares down, becoming only more remote as Jobs gets axed by his own company and later hired back. The part where he makes amends with the family he abandoned is elided. The film’s chronology ends in 2001 and Kutcher’s Jobs already seems exhausted. As are we, without the slightest feeling of having gained some new understanding of the man behind half of the devices we’re going to turn back on after the movie.

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