A "Jobs" to sit through
While watching the movie “Jobs” I kept thinking about a recurring nightmare I’ve been having ever since I graduated college. In the nightmare, I’m reminded that when I wake up I'm scheduled for an exam I’m unprepared for. I awake in a panic but when my senses click in, I realize the exam doesn’t exist. This uncomfortable feeling of something due happened to me several times during director Joshua Michael Stern’s “Jobs.”
“Jobs” is the story of Steve Jobs’ (Ashton Kutcher) trials and tribulations through which he built the Apple Computer Company into a behemoth. Actually, that’s a poor description of the movie because as written by Matt Whiteley there were no trials or tribulations in Mr. Jobs’ pursuit of computer dominance. There were only people’s lack of perfection, ingenuity and creativity. The tone of the movie is set when we watch Jobs, in Reed college – a dropout but still taking classes – approached and admonished by the Dean (James Woods: I hope the producers got a discount for the one hundred and eighty seconds of screen time Mr. Woods used up) for not finishing college. Jobs gives the Dean some advice on life that makes for an odd scene since the advice should have come from the Dean. But that’s the way it is throughout the whole hundred and twenty-two minutes. When he and his childhood friend and partner Steve Wozniak (smart, funny and sensitively portrayed by Josh Gad, a nice contrast to Jobs) negotiate with the only vender interested in selling their take on the personal computer, Jobs seems to have all the leverage to negotiate the deal. The same happens when Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) visits and wants to invest in their company, giving Apple the venture capital it needs to grow. Jobs negotiates a favorable deal for himself without much of a fight from Mr. Markkula.
The movie is a series of scenes just like that. Jobs wants to improve upon the model that is making everyone money. Everyone protests. Jobs goes into a speech about needing to be creative and not settling. The speech is the same but told differently throughout the movie and sounds so much like an Apple mission statement that I had to keep checking to see if I had a name tag on and wasn’t attending an Apple employees’ seminar.
“Jobs” lacks any sense of drama. Mr. Stern and Mr. Whiteley are doing a lot of hero worshipping. There are no conflicts with his collaborators or his investors. When they disagree with Jobs, we listen to one of his speeches and watch as everyone falls into line. The movie began to resemble “The Stepford Wives” in that you couldn’t find any characters with more than one emotion. The one aspect of his life where he would have to fight for sympathy is in his relationship with his daughter. In the movie he denies that he made his girlfriend Chris-Ann Brennan (Ahna O’Reilly) pregnant and refuses to recognize Lisa Jobs as his daughter. The movie deals with this relationship in two scenes after the denial; in the middle he is sitting on the couch watching television while opening up letters. One of these letters is from his daughter written in crayon asking when they can see each other. A scene at the end of the movie shows his daughter as a teenager (Anika Bertea) sleeping over at his house. When he tries to wake her from sleep she complains and then they join in a little playful banter. Without ever watching the relationship evolve, the scene is completely ludicrous.
And so is this movie. The message has been beaten into us: it takes hard work, talent, ingenuity and creativity to make the most successful and competitive computer company in the world. Those are also the requirements to make a good screenplay. We wish the makers of “Jobs” had listened to the credo they wrote down so many times in their screenplay. It would have helped in making a good movie instead of an inspirational corporate video.