RB Score: 8/10
My lord this movie just kind of killed me. Difficult to say why. There’s a million ways, so let me try to get started.
First off there’s Ashton Kutcher. “Jobs” was a movie I was determined to see however kept putting off, having difficulty envisioning that actor in that role. The opening scene was all it took to get me off that ledge. Gotta say Kutcher’s performance delivered. RB was ….. wrong.
Second, the opening scenes of 70s hippie stuff/drug use was interesting in that, younger audiences might view more in a historical context but the baby boomers out there watching may experience more nostalgia. (“People dressed like that then? Said things like that? Did drugs like that?” vs. “Ah, those were the good old days…”)
Third, this is a really compelling script about a real life modern icon, and a stellar cast brings it to life. I get that Jobs was not a perfect person, was even a real jerk at times, treated his girlfriend like crap and might have been a calculating micromanaging control freak. But how would I know? I never met the guy.
So let’s go back to the movie.
We start out on the California campus. Jobs isn’t the ideal student in fact he is openly rebellious and on the verge of dropping out. We are reminded that while young, there are mentors around to try and persuade you not to waste your life. Young Steve Jobs probably breaks the heart of any of these student advisers who try to help him.
Next we see a similar scenario being played out at the company which, you gotta give the 70s a lot of love here, for having managers who cared about developing people despite their quirks. Jobs isn’t doing too well at work and he is alienating others due to his attitude, performance and personal hygiene. His boss is trying to work with him and gives him a challenge, which will both isolate him from the people complaining, and also give him the chance to deliver on what he says he can do for the company. Again, the movie captures this privilege of youth: having caring people around to try and save you from your stupidest self. Eventually that tank runs out of gas, usually somewhere in your 20s. Early 30s if you look young enough. But I digress.
Jobs is losing sleep trying to analyze the programming problem and calls his school buddy Steve Wozniak. Woz, who one critic thought was portrayed as weak. Critic is wrong. Woz is not weak. He is intelligent, capable, and compassionate, and that’s exactly how he is played by Josh Gad. Woz has a big heart. Do people think that is weakness? He bails out Jobs, completing the programming assignment, so Jobs earns the boss’ respect and gets a payout that is not fairly shared with Woz. And we get to hear Kutcher voice the revelation that must have come to the real Steve Jobs at some point during that time: “I can’t work for someone else!”
That is the impetus for the computer lab that has been famously started in the Jobs family garage. Not only Woz has come along for the ride, the Woz who clearly was never motivated by profits, but a collection of brainiacs who deliver on whatever promise Jobs sells to a retailer. The talent of Steve Jobs then was how to harness and develop the talent of others. That, and being a true visionary and a true life-changer entrepreneur. This movie entertainingly chronicles the evolution of Apple and gives us a window into the world of its innovator.
From family garage to mega-corporate goings on, Jobs is portrayed with warts as well as with allegiance to his vision. Critics have muttered that in real life he was worse, others think different. I’m not so concerned with that as this isn’t a documentary. My one complaint about how the movie is structured is that character development is sorely lacking among the creative team. A bit more attention is paid to the corporate bigwigs and the investor. You know, they just aren’t as interesting as the kids who put together hard drives in the garage. Maybe that mimics life, too. Suits get the attention and the money is made from the sweat and hard work of others. Everyone is pictured equally in the closing credits, which does sort of recognize and pay homage to “The Team.”
Eventually, when Jobs and Woz part ways professionally (the friendship had disintegrated earlier) Woz stops by Jobs’ office one quiet evening. Wish I could remember which critical review had called Woz a weak character so I could give proper discredit. Again, Woz was anything but weak. Quietly, he says to Jobs, “Got a minute?” and Jobs looks up from his sea of diagrams. Woz then says he’s out, that it’s something they both knew was coming, and that it was time for him to leave.
Kutcher is very credible, conveying shock, irritation and denial. Woz continues speaking softly and concludes by reminding Jobs that for what it’s worth, those days working in the garage were the best of times. He delivers this with the perfect level of easygoing nostalgia and without rancor. When Jobs replies, first he casts about for a second or two, understandably because you can’t respond to what Woz just said with a rant. Jobs finally says, “What do you want from me?” And Woz only pauses a split second during which you see the nostalgia change to pity: “Not everyone has an agenda, Steve.” Got to be one of my favorite movie lines ever.
If you’ve ever touched a keyboard this is a movie worth seeing. 2 pt deduction for lack of character development among the early creative team.