Bill O’Byrne’s Bargain Bin Blues: Jobs

Jobs | $$

  • Directed by Joshua Michael Stern.
  • Written by Matt Whiteley.
  • Starring Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Ahna O’Reilly

PHIL vs BILL This dramatisation of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ rise, fall and resurrection ahead of the company’s iPod heyday is once-over-lightly but doesn’t disguise his dark side or make him into a martyr. His treachery was as extraordinary as his technology, and Ashton Kutcher succeeds in depicting him as both a monster and a marvel who was as visionary as he was vulnerable. But Jobs’ personality and legacy would have better suited an HBO mini-series than a truncated movie with an iTunes soundtrack.  -- Phil Wakefield.

PHIL vs BILL
This dramatisation of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ rise, fall and resurrection ahead of the company’s iPod heyday is once-over-lightly but doesn’t disguise his dark side or make him into a martyr. His treachery was as extraordinary as his technology, and Ashton Kutcher succeeds in depicting him as both a monster and a marvel who was as visionary as he was vulnerable. But Jobs’ personality and legacy would have better suited an HBO mini-series than a truncated movie with an iTunes soundtrack. — Phil Wakefield.

If you like Ashton Kutcher, you will like Jobs. He has a headstart in looking like Jobs in the first place and he does a good imitation of Jobs’ gestures and his voice. 

Kutcher is good in most things, though its usually a version of himself. In Jobs, as he’s walking around in Jobs’ distinctive lope, it is tempting to go: ‘Hey, Kutcher’s had a personal Steve Jobs lope coach!’

If you don’t like Kutcher, but are a Jobs fanboy, fangirl, fan-gender-other, then you won’t like this reasonably average version of a much more than average person.

It doesn’t work as a film about Steve Jobs and Apple. It is too small to handle the complexity of Jobs who is one of those people who revolutionises a culture but can be a terrible person.

The movie just presents instances of this terribleness and still attempts to make you root for him as he takes back boardroom control of Apple.

Plus, some of the scenes are unbelievable. Mainly because they didn’t happen. And that is a big issue too – how much can the facts be dickered with till a biopic becomes biocrap?

Jobs could be a guy of great vision and petty vindictiveness, and even huge cruelty to people who loved him. For instance, it shows him  dropping acid and having mystical moments with his girlfriend Chrisann Brennan and best friend Daniel Kottke.

Later he ends his relationship with Brennan when she tells him she’s pregnant with their child, and freezes Kottke out of his life when Jobs gets too important for old friends.

It shows him as an almost Christ-like figure preaching to Apple workers, yet  cuts all the founding workers/friends out of share options when the company goes public.

And while Jobs shows this, it doesn’t give any insight into it. Was empathy at a personal level something that was surgically removed at birth? And does it matter?

Will the real Steve Jobs/Ashton Kutcher please stand up?

Will the real Steve Jobs/Ashton Kutcher please stand up?

More than a few captains of industry have been monstrous dicks. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford spring to mind as innovators or brilliant marketers that transformed society and their personal failings don’t detract from their achievements.

But Jobs the man was always seen as someone greater, the charismatic idealist, the creator. But Jobs has nothing to offer in the way of insight for the whys. In becoming a Salute to Steve, it just leaves these things there, kind of puzzled itself why such a genius should stiff his best friend Steve Wozniak out of the money from the Apple 1 and still go on to change the world.

And let’s not beat around the bush here, Apple has changed it. The movie begins, and probably should have instead ended, for the sake of a Triumphal Moment, with the introduction of the iPod in 2001.

There’s your music industry changed forever. Perhaps the iPhone would have been an even better point to finish on. It has changed photography, journalism, commerce and education already and god knows what else in the next decade. Sure the tools were always there, Jobs just took them to the heart of the social classes that make change happen.

He is a big deal.

But  in shoehorning 28 years of his life into 127 minutes, first-time screenwriter Michael Whitely pretty much gave up. There are some set piece scenes that try and give a feel for the times and the guy but he’s taken such egregious liberties as well, it makes it seem like a sham.

For instance, the scene where they first sell the Apple 1 after a Homebrew Computer Club (where Wozniak was apparently humiliated by the lukewarm reception to the Apple) was a fiction. A key plot point of betrayal by a business partner, was fiction.

The scene where a tearful Wozniak tells Jobs he’s leaving Apple and he fears for Jobs, prior to Jobs losing his CEO position, was fiction.

The two "Steves" in happier days ...

The two “Steves” in happier days …

What was true? Well, Jobs did get paid $5000 to deliver the Apple 1 to The Byte Shop store and told Wozniak he was getting $700, which he split 50:50 with him.

Jobs did cut every other founding worker out of stock options at the time of the IPO. (Wozniak personally dipped into his founders stock allocations to give to those original workers, and provided a sweet deal share deal to about 40 other engineers at Apple.)

Why, Mr Jobs? Why?

Perhaps the Alan Sorkin movie coming up about Jobs will be better at getting to the heart of the man. Or maybe he just had a weird,inexplicable heart and a very clever mind.

  • Value for money: $$
  • Artistic merit: 2.3 out of 5.8

Blu-ray Extras:

Appalling. The Making of Jobs, the usual studio puff, and Behind the Scenes – brief shots of the crew shooting with no narrative or context nor the actors doing anything interesting. A lazy insult.

Special Fan Bonus

For Jobs or Apple scholars, a very interesting show featuring three of the people portrayed in Jobs – Wozniak, Andy Hertzfeld and Kottke, who consulted on the movie, do a full plot point evaluation of the movie and their memories of the actual events.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gICwMQQ48Dk

It is a two hour, public TV question and answer show which is fascinating for all the asides.

For instance, Wozniak says Jobs dropped out of varsity because he didn’t like the way people had to study … he just thought you went into the classes you were interested in. He asked for a refund, got that, and then asked if he could just carry on anyway. Amazingly, the dean said yes. Jobs then asked if he could use one of the empty dorm rooms to live in.

Anybody want to buy a used computer?

Anybody want to buy a used computer?

The movie accurately shows that when Jobs and Wozniak started working on the Apple 1, Wozniak had a sideline business where people could phone in and get a Polish joke that he’d recorded. (Polish jokes were all the rage in 1970s. They were ethnicky enough to appeal to the ethnicky joke fans, but not so much to get you labelled a racist. Besides, nobody cares what gets said about Poles. Except for Poles.)

Sometimes instead of the answer phone taking the calls, Wozniak would answer the call himself and tell the joke. It was how he met his first wife.

This probably wasn’t the joke he told her, but it is in the movie:

“What’s long and hard and a Polish bride gets on her wedding night? A new last name.”

The way Jobs treated his girlfriend when she became pregnant with Lisa, and a few other things a reporter found out about him, was one of the things that cost Jobs the Man of the Year title from Time magazine.

Time changed the angle to be The Machine of the Year. Jobs was apparently hurt, and predictably vindictive, to the reporter who penned it after being very close for a long time.

All three on the panel said if people wanted a more enjoyable version of the pioneering days  days of personal computing, Pirates of Silicon Valley from 1999  does it better, and is funnier as well.

Bill O’Byrne is a failed practitioner in the art of making movies. He has an imaginary Masters degree in being able to sit goggle-eyed and stare at TVs for hours on end. He is previously the official astrologer for the New Zealand Army and once made a complete cock of himself in front of Douglas Adams in Palmerston North. He has assorted nonsense here: kiwispacepatrol.wordpress.com.
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One Response to “Bill O’Byrne’s Bargain Bin Blues: Jobs”

  1. I read that as bargain bin for blues job, oops must be Friday 🙂

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