Jobs is Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple. While Steve Wozniak may have been the better programmer/designer, Jobs was a visionary.
I can’t help recalling The Social Network, the film that told us about Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild Facebook. The subject is so ubiquitous as to make the story irresistible, the protagonist, a colossal nerd, and not at all nice. I suppose I’m stating the obvious; a film about business can’t be nice, can it? Not if it’s truthful.
As a tale of redemption for both the product & the protagonist, there’s a third layer in the resurrection of the actor cast as the lead. Ashton Kutcher’s career gets a shot in the arm from this film. The portrayal is surprisingly physical, employing slouchy body language to make you forget the actor’s usual attractiveness. Even so I felt i was watching an elaborate sketch on SNL, complete with canny makeup, resemblances to known persons such as Jobs & Wozniak, and lots of historical references. Of course the film bravely showed him to us warts and all. It’s so carefully contrived that it’s like a boat in dry-dock, still held in place by the scaffolds. They prevent it from having any real flow or pulse.
I suppose this can’t be a story with surprises: not when it’s a matter of record.
It struck me as ironic that I saw images in Jobs—a movie recording recent history—that are exactly like some of the visuals we see in Elysium, a science fiction flick about the future. But there they are, unintelligible lines of text dancing across the screen. In Elysium the computer may as well be the Deus Ex Machina, an agency beyond our understanding that moves the plot forward inexorably: so long as it doesn’t contradict our belief system. While in Elysium computers save or damn, powerful as if from beyond in Jobs the magic merely makes our economy work. There’s that collateral meaning to the title, i suppose, that anyone caught up in questions of economics can’t miss; but it’s not terribly interesting.
Jobs does seem to be accurate. Anyone coming to the film with a modicum of allegiance to one operating system or another will recognize names of products & people. For some this may verge on something metaphysical. I understand some people see Steve Jobs as a great man, a visionary and a messiah. I know i detected some genuine excitement in the audience near me in the theatre.
Not me. I was intrigued but never entranced.
Postscript (next morning): I think i’m conflicted about the film & its subject, and may have been a tad unkind in the review i published above. But there are several ambiguities to the film that are perhaps a reflection of the choices made in the writing. We’re given glimpses of a darkness in Jobs’ character, but can only guess at what illuminates his choices. It’s a cryptic film much of the time. Kutcher does as well as he can with the script by Matt Whiteley. I would think this kind of subject could be hugely political, courting a lawsuit either from the Jobs estate or the big corporations named. Maybe those closer to the subject can read between the lines of certain scenes: scenes that i didn’t fully decode. I was attempting to capture some of that minimalism in my first paragraphs where i am deliberately vague. It disturbs me –as i re-read this– that this understatement on my part is just as cryptic. Joshua Michael Stern is the director, the other key influence omitted from last night’s review.
There’s a kind of trope we see in the film, a situation for which i don’t yet have a name. On several occasions Jobs would give a kind of talk to introduce a product, speaking in a kind of visionary speak about what they were attempting to do. These set pieces are perhaps the highlight of the film, and possibly moments drawing upon something that’s a matter of public record. I wonder if Whiteley was faced with the task –or gave himself the task– of assembling a film to connect those dots for us, those famous public announcements. What i think i felt yesterday and still feel today is a bit of a letdown, that those moments were the most inspired in the film, moments that are in a real sense, PR.
Yes I am conflicted. A few days ago i was impressed by a comparable speech from the CEO at the AGO, introducing Ai Weiwei. But then we went to see the art, which was a more powerful experience. Should the marketing magic shine brighter than the other moments? That’s what i am trying to figure out. If this is intentional it almost suggests something verging on self-parody, as though Jobs were a madman infatuated with his own hype. I wish we’d had more to explain what was going on inside Jobs’ head, background to his actions in the public sphere.
Perhaps the story can’t yet be told without generating a huge lawsuit.