I recently tapped out some thoughts on the 2015 film, Steve Jobs, so as the second part of an exercise I’m here to discuss the 2013 film, Jobs. Both films were made after their titular character passed away in real life, in 2011. Spookily, I realise only just now, that his passing was exactly a decade ago, earlier this very month. That was very unplanned when I recently thought to watch these two films.
Unlike Steve Jobs, which takes three moments in Job’s life and fashions a story around them which requires a slight suspension of disbelief re: characters, Jobs is a more straightforward biopic.
We kick off with Jobs at university. He’s barefoot, shagging women, dropping acid, and sitting in on classes from just about every discipline you can imagine even though it seems he’s not actually enrolled there. It’s not bad shorthand to reinforce the idea that Jobs was a kind of polymath who had a genuine interest in, and knew enough about, a lot of different topics to be able to see ‘the big picture’, but would always need other actual experts to get the results he was dreaming up.
The story then takes us to Apple Computer being created in a garage; early successes, cock-ups like the first Macintosh, Jobs being removed from Apple, and on it goes. Again, this is real biopic stuff, with actors trying to look like the key players – Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld, Mike Markkula, John Sculley, Gil Amelio, and so on – playing out a dramatised version of events over several decades.
Ashton Kutcher does extremely well as Jobs. He has an uncanny ability to look like Jobs at several stages in his life without much make-up (the one exception being when he plays a much older Jobs talking to the Apple faithful about the iPod), and even adopts a slightly hunched, odd walk when moving around. It’s clear he studied his topic and for people who still can’t get past him as that guy on That 70s Show, Punk’d or Two and a Half Men, a film like Jobs shows he has real acting chops – we just don’t get to see it all that often. Indeed, as far as I can tell, since Jobs, Kutcher has had a cameo in the film Annie and appeared as himself in the doco, The Man Who Saved the World. Everything else has been TV-based. That’s quite criminal to my mind. He should be on the big screen more often.
It’s very hard to compare this to the other Jobs-centric film, precisely because they are so different. If I had to pick a favourite, I think I would go with this one. The other is perhaps more clever in its wordplay and structure; it does something you might not expect and pulls out quite a tale. However, this one seems to have more heart. It’s not Jobs acting like a lunatic in every scene and people yelling at each other, non-stop. There’s drama in this, yes. And yelling, too. But there’s more. There’s humour. There are characters you get a much better feel for (notable exception; Job’s daughter Lisa, who is in this film, but used in nothing like the same way she’s used in Steve Jobs). There’s also a better sense of understanding Jobs’ story as we see it play out in a linear fashion, rather than having people pop up before a product launch in Steve Jobs to talk about things that we only get to see in flashback.
I’m really happy to have watched these two films this month without even realising it was the 10 year anniversary of Jobs’ passing. While I’m no Apple fanboy, I worked as an IT journalist for many years and Apple was always a part of my reporting. I’ve used an iPhone forever, but I can’t stand using Apple computers. So, swings and roundabouts. It’s a company, and a personality which interests me greatly – but never from the point of sheer adulation. I was entertained by both films and commend each.