Thursday, August 22, 2013

'Jobs' Works, but doesn't Satisfy

Some critics have said that the new 'Jobs' film is a more like a movie about the Apple company than it is about the man, Steve Jobs, its late founder and sometimes CEO. While this may be true, it also makes sense; Jobs and his products for Apple were so clearly a part of each other that they can't be disassociated. So the criticism is fair, but so is the rationale behind it.

For a film about innovation, 'Jobs' is surprisingly formulaic. It works mostly on montages and follows a chronological storyline that covers the early years of Jobs and Apple rising from the obscurity of his parents' garage with a ragtag gang of miscellaneous computer geeks- the pre-Big Bang Theory group. There are some truly humourous moments and Ashton Kutcher puts in a solid performance, getting the jitters, the hunched walk and the dead shark eyes when he conducts business, down pat.

The film succeeds in showing the struggles and easy charm of Jobs as he tried desperately to hold onto Apple in the early years. His ambition and disregard for all others who didn't share his vision, caused countless problems for investors and board members, who effectively ousted him from his own company. It's the part of the story that most of us forget. For many, Jobs is an unparalleled success story, the American dream, the mad genius. The film shows the truth of the matter, which is that Jobs was the charm, but Wozniak was the true genius. Wozniak slaved away on the technology that Jobs sold, lending it a mystique and a veneer that would later be perfected in his partnership with Jonathon Ive. Wozniak was the sweat and Jobs was the polish.

He's also the heart of the film. No matter how many times Ashton Kutcher is made to cry in this film, somehow, the audience never feels any closer to him. Even in his pain, he seems aloof. Josh Gad as Wozniak steals the show emotionally in this film, giving more heart in 5 minutes than the entire film does in over 2 hours. It's probably because he's so real- frank, approachable, geeky, in love with what he does, shy, uncertain, so very human. His departure speech to Jobs is heartbreakingly sincere and simple, probably a reflection of the man himself.

This is not a film that creates sympathy for Jobs, but it also doesn't allow you to know him. Perhaps it's because the veneer and mystery of Apple covers Jobs so completely, the same way that you can't see into an iphone. Or maybe it's the mad genius part; perhaps the most frustrating part about 'Jobs' is the fact that genius can be witnessed, but never truly understood.

It's a stark reminder that there are those exceptional people out there, people who write history and change the world. They change perspectives and challenge the status quo and turn things on their head. We can see it happen, but we can't come any closer to genius ourselves. The unsettled feeling that we, the audience, belongs in the 'everyone else' category, may be the unsatisfactory part about 'Jobs. Just like it's the unsatisfactory part about life.

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