At a certain point, I started to keep a running tally of how many times Apple founder Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) received a standing ovation in eponymous biopic Jobs. I counted five, which was five too many. It’s a cheap trick: show enough onscreen love for your protagonist, peer-pressure your audience into giving your hero points he hasn’t actually racked up. It’s shortcut storytelling and it doesn’t really work.
Jobs is not well-served by the story culled from the real-life entrepreneur’s life. After 15 minutes killing time with college-aged Jobs, we’re flashed forward to Steve’s Atari days, where he cute-meets his Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Book of Mormon’s Josh Gad, a bright spot in the film), founds the legendary computer company in his parents’ garage, and builds his corporation into the behemoth it is today. Of course this not without first alienating his board, being put on underdog Macintosh project, and being fired from and then rehired by Apple. These last events, a solid hour of the film, are told through a series of phone calls and board meetings. This is exactly as exciting as it sounds, which is to say, not exciting at all.
The overstated writing axiom “Show, don’t tell” apparently needs to be stated one more time here. In Jobs we are only told, never shown. “Steve’s a genius,” we are informed, but we rarely, if ever, see his genius. Instead, we see his tantrums, which we can’t forgive him for because we never witness intelligence that excuses this behavior. Jobs, as the film portrays him, is the bully who gets an A on the group project because he forced the nerds to do all the work for him. It’s difficult to decipher whether director Joshua Michael Stern intended his Jobs to be hero or antihero — a hero must be likable; an antihero must be admirable — but Kutcher as Jobs is neither. What a waste, to make so little out of a life that held so much. Fingers crossed that Aaron Sorkin, currently at work on a Steve Jobs biopic of his own, will find the fire and music in this story and share it with the rest of us.