'Jobs' movie review

Jobs starts awkwardly. Ashton Kutcher, made up to look like Steve Jobs in 2001, does what amounts to a bad late night TV skit impression of the staff meeting where the iPod is revealed, internally, for the first time. That's your warning. Proceed at your own risk.

What follows is a rather linear progression of Jobs' life from Reed College to his ouster at Apple, and then after a brief montage, his return leading up to the release of the iMac. That's not a great structure, leading with the iPod and never returning to it, running up to the iMac and not landing on its release.

Within those timelines there are moments of charm. When Kutcher relaxes out of his Jobs impression and just lets the work flow, the whole thing coalesces and actually works really well. But those moments are sadly few and far between, and almost always interrupted by a disturbing walk, slouch, or gesture. He seems to care a great deal, and to want to try really hard, and maybe that's the problem with the performance. Embodying a character in film often has little to do with aping them in real life.

The dialog, much of it drawn from the collective history and mythology of Jobs and Apple is fine. They hit all the sound bites and catch phrases. They also show Jobs doing drugs, lamenting his adoption, annoying the Atari employees, denying his early parental responsibilities, being unnecessarily mean to those who others would have considered his friends, and all the other widely reported negative personality traits and behaviors ascribed to him over the years. How all of that is weighted against his lifelong drive to make computers into ever-more accessible, more elegant appliances isn't always well balanced, or arguably not even accurately portrayed.

There's also very little of Jobs relationship to Bill Gates and Microsoft here, though that was the focus of Pirates of Silicon Valley. There's nothing from the iPod to iPhone or iPad. That means no exploration of Jobs relationship to his birth family, nothing of his health issues, nothing of his relationship with Eric Schmidt and Google. And while there's a few minutes with Jony Ive, there's nothing with Phil Schiller or Tim Cook. And what we get of Woz is as much comic relief as engineering wizard.

You can't fit an entire life, much less the life of someone as transformative as Steve Jobs into a movie, but you can pick your beginning and end points, and your beats, and you can draw them into an arc that may not show everything, but at least tells a narrative of the person beyond the events.

Whether Jobs is ultimately a passionate, if brutish homage to a modern technological hero, or valiant if overly fetishized tribute in search of a movie is hard to say.

It isn't terrible, and as cable TV fare, it's passable. But I didn't think it was a good movie (objectively) and I didn't like it much (subjectively), even though I'm keenly interested in the subject matter. Unless you have an incredible thirst to see anything and everything Apple or Steve Jobs as quickly as you can, save a few bucks and catch it when it hits the streaming services.

Jobs is in theaters now.

If you've seen Jobs, go leave your review in the iMore movie forums and we'll post the best bits right here on the Home page in our community review follow up!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 14 comments. Add yours.

nickrichyrich says:

They chose a interesting time line. Overall I enjoyed the movie though.

endgame says:

Really liked it

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accesstech1 says:

The iMore review told me all I need to know that I would never pay to see a movie including the traitor "Hanoi Jane". Viet Nam Vet. I still love Apple products and own most since 1986.

Gazoobee says:

Geez, let it go for cripes sake. Only fools hold grudges.

SoggyTempura says:

and only greater fools ignore.

accesstech1 says:

Yep, probably should. You adolescents would probably forgive Hitler and Pol Pot if you had any adea who they were.. Live your phantasy life.

captobie says:

And now, head on over to The Verge for a much more comprehensive -- and balanced -- review. I had been hoping for something better from iMore.

Solamar says:

I think he was bang on.. and very balanced. The Verge seems in love with Ashton.. he can do no wrong apparently.

khobia2 says:

When they decide to do something serious I will go watch a Jobs movie. Until then I will read a book on his life. Kutcher is overrated as an actor IMO.

Zach Lach says:

I saw the midnight show, I had low expectations to begin with and I think that actually helped me enjoy the movie more. A lot of the acting was poor and the drug scene was just awkward. Overall it was an okay movie. My favorite part had to be when Jobs first met Ive, that actor got him down 100%
I Agree with Rene though, save your money and wait to see it for free (or a few bucks)

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monhall says:

I like it. Like many of you, I followed Steve closely. So, I know the story. Don't go see this expecting to learn something you don't already know. That said, for the less knowledgable movie goer, I would expect they would find the 2 hours to be entertaining. I was certainly not bored or disappointed, except for the fact that the timeline did not cover two of Steve's biggest triumphs, the iPhone and iPad. I think Ashton did a good job, and I would recommend the film.

LastOstrogoth says:

An excellent review, Rene, Thank you. Having read Isaacson's bio of Jobs a couple of times, I would have been very surprised if the film had been even mildly successful. Steve Jobs was a very complex man, brilliant, moody, idealistic, creative, and driven. As you say, trying to compress his life into a two hour movie, and having him portrayed by an actor who does not possess a tiny fraction of Jobs brilliance or charisma was doomed to failure.

Dark_Blu says:

Sorry but Kutcher doesn't move the needle for me as "Steve Jobs" in this movie or anyone else in anything else. He still comes off as Ashton Kutcher from "That Seventies Show", no matter what role he plays, because he's a one dimensional actor who's type cast as a goofy imbecile. He looks the same (beard or not). He sounds the same. He acts the same. I just can't take him seriously in any role he plays.

JNGold says:

I saw it with my wife last night. I thought it was was "OK". Wifey enjoyed it enough to pick up the Issacson book. I think I might have enjoyed it more because I owned one of those original 128k Macs and learned to code on an Apple II. The movie itself was missing quite a bit like interaction with Bill G, Jobs "growing up" during his NeXT and Pixar years, and was a bit weird on the timelines and showing iPod first then ending at the Think Different commercial.