Jobs: one for the Apple fanboys

Sep 05, 2013

I have never been partial to cults of personality. From Jesus to Gandhi, the idea that a single person is the embodiment of change rather than the tip of a vast and complex iceberg has never sat comfortably with me.

The feeling persists when talking about techno-evangelist Steve Jobs. Jobs founded the Apple computer empire, brought design to computing and revolutionised the idea of a machine in every home. This film, a biopic clearly rushed into production following the entrepreneur’s death in 2011, charts his meteoric rise, fall from grace and subsequent homecoming to a company founded in his dad’s garage with a few geeky mates.

Ashton “Dude, Where’s My Method?” Kutcher plays Jobs throughout his life – from college dropout to middle-aged Yogic beacon of smugness. Kutcher has obviously tried so, so hard, but he generally fails to inhabit a difficult character who undertook a profound journey across his life. His delivery of Jobs’ notable physical tics is undermined by the rote way in which he employs them.

The film is sustained largely on the back of the source material, which is interesting enough to overcome a weak script. The movie plays the ball (Apple) where it should play the man (Jobs), and in the end fails to satisfy as either a critically sound biopic or corporate thriller.

In terms of cults of personality, this film makes only the barest attempt to consider Jobs’ legacy through anything other than the obvious Manifest Destiny, Bootstrappy, Write Your Own Destiny, American Dream Libertarian lens. Silicon Valley has been a stage for some of the most fascinating conflicts of demographic and principle over the decades – a place simultaneously smouldering with innovation but stunted by the homogeneity of its mentality and workforce. No consideration is paid to how or why Jobs, a comparatively wealthy white man among the same, was able to succeed in the SV crucible as a college dropout off the backs of the labour of others – whether his friends or workers in China. All we know from this film is that he did.

Director Joshua Michael Stern does, however, find a lot of room for shots of large crowds applauding Jobs – without which I suspect the movie would have run for only about 40 minutes.

Josh Gad is the surprise heart of this piece as übernerd Steve Wozniak, the technical genius behind Jobs’ charisma. Gad’s portrayal is tender and genuine, and much like Woz himself, deserved far more attention as a key character in this tale.

Apple fanboys and Jobs maniacs will likely find this appealing, but anyone craving a rich analysis of a man so pivotal to the development of mass-market computing will likely be disappointed.


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