Aug

19

 The following is a short review of the Jobs film. Mild spoilers ahead.

For the better part of my swim yesterday, I was trying to put some things into perspective. So it was fitting that I ended up going and seeing Jobs last night, as it offered the type of message I sought.

The biopic, starring Ashton Kutcher, provides insight into Steve Jobs' life from his time at Reed College until he reassumes control of Apple in 1996. Kutcher provides a solid-B performance as Jobs, never quite catching the man's tone but certainly perfecting his gait. It isn't exactly a polite portrayal either, as it highlights Jobs' mean streak toward members of his own family, his indifference to friends, and his master obsession with perfection.

But the major theme of the film, what it takes to be good versus what it takes to be great, shines. And Jobs' vision of changing the world and making computers and other devices an extension of his customers lives is outstanding. Jobs' challenge to create a marketplace for something that doesn't exist (the Apple II personal home computer/iPod/Macintosh) is evidenced in the challenges of short-term minded stockholders and blunt media criticism, against his vision of the long-term and his products' impact on the world.

I found the film more enjoyable than the Social Network, as it's far more human and void of Aaron Sorkin dialogue spoken at a 100 MPH (though Sorkin vehicles remain a guilty pleasure if only for the writing and neurotic characters). Jobs provided a reminder of some of the startups that I've worked on in the past, when some people want it to be a business and others want it to be a hobby, and the divide that occurs. It's evident that Jobs' philosophy has rubbed off on Ashton Kutcher, who has really taken Jobs' message of "being great" and spread it to the masses (though his audiences are too ignorant to hear him). Kutcher has actually been a very successful and vocal tech investor in recent years, and the Jobs portrayal appears to have realigned his thinking.

The film begins with the announcement of the iPod, but immediately back tracks to his time as a dropout at Reed College. From the onset, he's shrewd, a master negotiator, and insanely detailed to the point it drives his small staff crazy in his father's garage. Overtime, we see Apple grow, and with the appointment of John Scully, the Fortune 500 CEO mindset competes with Jobs' disregard for costs or compliance. Lots of long-shot hallway walks set up nearly every termination or ousting from the company.

The film was well written, though the tensions between Jobs, Scully, Ronald Wayne, and even Gil Amelio were a bit soft. I think Amelio, despite his small, small part might have been missed cast. But Matthew Modine plays an outstanding John Scully, and seems to have found a niche as in the CEO role like he did as John Thain in Too Big to Fail.

In the end, this is a simplistic biopic of Jobs, catering to the masses. It's a simplistic view of Jobs' rise to prominence told in a Save the Cat style format of rising and falling. This isn't a tale of great hope — but it highlights the extraordinary achievements of Jobs as best it can, and provides a fantastic last two minutes that offer a subtle reminder of when you leave the theater… What path will you lead?


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