BR: jOBS (2013)

February 4, 2014 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / J to L


Film: Good/ BR Transfer: Excellent / BR Extras: Standard

Label: Universal / Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: November 23, 2013

Genre: Biograpy / Drama

Synopsis: Slick but rudimentary biopic about Apple’s enigmatic co-founder Steve Jobs.

Special Features: Disc 1: Making-of featurete / Disc 2:  DVD




Often in the wake of a major figure’s passing comes a biopic. Sometimes it’s reverent, marginally critical of the iconoclast, or maybe it’s just a slap-dash cash-in TV movie designed to make a little money before audiences no longer feel bereft.

There’s no denying Steve Jobs was a remarkable, influential figure, driven by a passion to bring complex technology in a simple, sleek package for personal and professional use. He worked for several key companies like IBM, left to pursue his own dreams, assembled a team of brilliant oddballs, saw Apple grow and then tumble into crisis, then lose hold of his position as its CEO, be given the diminutive Mac project which became the company’s first great success story, and ultimately re-assumed control of Apple, steering projects such as the iPhone and the iPod to fruition, and making the Apple brand the most valuable on Earth.

Behind the company’s ups & downs was a complex individual, and one would think there exists enough material to mine and craft a compelling bio of Job’s rise from university eccentric to Apple’s CEO – especially in the wake of Job’s own autobiography – but the screenplay by newcomer Matt Whiteley never rises past a rudimentary cable TV movie. The script is a linear, bullet point chronicle of Jobs’ life from a bare-footed, odiferous college programmer to the launch of the iPod (a moment that actually starts the film before a fast flash-back to college), but there isn’t anything new or remarkable that couldn’t be gleaned from a handful of Wikipedia profiles.

Most of Ashton Kutcher’s dialogue sounds like selected extrapolations from published interviews, anecdotes, and recorded speeches, leaving Kutcher – terribly out of league in any dramatic role – a caricature to portray. Jobs is presented as a driven, bellicose, highly focused man, and we know this because Kutcher maintains two facial expressions: calm, and fixated. His dialogue delivery is clipped when Jobs is apparently irate, but rather than have the iconoclast yell, Kutcher tenses his lips and modulates his retorts to dismissive, unimaginative colleagues and directors like a disappointed parent. Kutcher also seems to have adopted a strange posture and a walk that’s almost simian, making wide shots of Jobs hunching and swaying across the frame look rather ridiculous.

The casting of Kutcher, who does at times bear a striking resemblance to the more wiry Jobs, is partly to blame for the film’s blandness, as is a script that offers no insight into the man; he’s just hyper-focused because, you know, he’s Steve Jobs. Director Joshua Michael Stern neither challenges nor transcends the material, and some peripheral characters either disappear – Jobs’ pregnant wife, whom he ousts from his home, is suddenly replaced by a woman lacking any name or intro in a major time-jump – and Daniel Kottke (Lukas Haas) his reduced to a moping sidelined character whom we assume was gradually ditched from Jobs’ inner circle because he was no more than a skilled repair technician.

Stern’s film is generally well cast –Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney and Matthew Modine all stand out and resemble their counterparts – whereas J.K. Simmons, Lesley Anne Warren, and James Woods are pretty much gone after their singular moments, and while Jobs is nothing more than an easy-to-digest primer on Jobs and the birth and gradual prominence of Apple, it is really rich in period detail. Jobs may have been planed as TV movie prior to getting lucky and enjoying a theatrical release, but whoever was in charge of art direction and props did a superb job in filling scenes with period gizmos, furniture, cars, and clothes. Seeing early Apple computers is also a treat – largely because the early designs – chunkier, with the very first Apples encased in wood – were eventually replaced by the sleek metal and white lacquered plastic computers and entertainment products we know and admire as superb achievements in industrial design.

The cinematography by Russell Carpenter (Titanic, Charlie’s Angels) is equally slick, offering nice compositions with a slightly soft focus look, matched by a colour palette evocative of the mid- to late seventies. Universal’s Blu-ray features an excellent transfer and 5.1 mix, but perhaps being a cash-in film, the disc includes not a making-of featurette but what runs like a teaser trailer cut from a proper featurette, so there’s no real behind-the-scenes meat or reflection from the cast & filmmakers.

Those wanting more detailed info on the company’s early years and minutia of its products should seek out Robert Baca and Josh Rizzo’s 2008 documentary Welcome to Macintosh.



© 2014 Mark R. Hasan


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