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When Steve Jobs returned to Apple after a forced departure from the company he had founded and once owned, he said, at least in Hollywood’s version of the tale, that he wanted to “make Apple cool again.” In the telling of Steve Jobs’ story, Jobs does its best to make its namesake as cool as possible.
The trouble is that this film and the Steve Jobs it depicts should be viewed as “cool” at viewers’ peril. For in this remarkable story foul language, immorality, rebellion against authority, and epic self-centeredness are part of the package viewers are guided to admire.
Better check your virus protection before watching this film. Macs may be immune to viruses, but the human mind is not.
When most people think of college dropouts, they do not envision them being the people who will start billion-dollar companies. Steve Jobs, however, is not your average dropout. Sure, he uses drugs, has one-night flings, and generally bucks all the rules, but his professors know he has talent.
Steve starts to show some of his abilities when he leaves the school scene and goes to work for Atari. It doesn’t take long, however, for him to get into trouble for being too difficult to work with. Steve comes to the obvious conclusion that he cannot work for anyone—he needs to be free to work on his own and follow his own vision, if he had one.
The vision and vehicle to independence that Steve needs come when he sees the invention of his friend, Steve “Woz” Wozniak. Woz has hit on something special with his own circuit board that can connect to a TV, enabling the user to view work on a screen as he or she is working. Steve recognizes the potential that Woz never dreamed of for this personal computer, and Steven soon convinces Woz to pitch the concept to buyers.
One sale leads to another, and Steve is soon starting a company with his buddy Woz. The name of that company? Apple. With a lowly start in the garage of Steve’s parents, Apple soon expands into larger facilities, larger budgets, and bigger projects.
Apple shoots through changes at high speed, and Steve can’t help but be changed, as well. Like the company, these changes are not always for the better. Steve runs over others just as his publicly traded company eventually runs over him.
One thing that never changes, however, is Steve’s commitment to perfectionism and his vision for Apple. For Steve, Apple is about much more than computers—it’s about changing the world.
Changing the world is a wonderful idea, but only if the changes are good. Steve Jobs, through his company Apple and the many brilliant minds who have worked there, has indeed accomplished some tremendous things in the advancement of technology. In Jobs, however, the means to that end are often neither justified nor admirable.
The film makes no effort to cover Steve’s mistakes, and even has friends occasionally call him on his unkindness to others and his self-centered approach to life. Steve, however, makes only incremental improvements in the areas for which he is chastised. Meanwhile, his immorality (affairs, drug use, etc.) is never condemned.
To the filmmakers’ credit, the grossly immoral elements are not shown explicitly (we see him in bed with women who are unclothed, but covered), yet the manner in which they are depicted portray such behavior as appealing and acceptable. When a young Steve and his friends get high on drugs, for example, Steve is shown enjoying an enticing experience of elation and imagination that leads to discovering what he wants to do with his life.
Even the aspects of Steve’s behavior that the filmmakers make an attempt to portray objectively, or even negatively, fade into the background by the end of the picture. The story ultimately makes too strong of a point that Steve is the reason for Apple’s success, and that he is therefore a man worthy of admiration and emulation.
The people who are “not fond of rules” and aren’t happy “with the status quo,” Steve says, are the ones who make the greatest impact on the world. Steve’s philosophy, then, would discount the impact of the truly unmatched world changers and even Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill every detail of the Law (Matthew 5:17-18). Talk about a rule-follower.
Yes, some man-made rules are evil and should not be followed, but the ones that viewers see Steve disregard in Jobs do not fall into that category. Parking in stalls marked for the handicapped, ignoring social politeness, using illegal drugs, trampling over others to his own advantage—these are the types of generally regarded “rules” that Steve disobeys.
Steve is not the only rule-breaker in Jobs, however. He is surrounded by other people who are similarly unkind and disloyal (though not as rude), and they join with Steve in contributing to the film’s most major content issue—offensive language. The onslaught of profanities and obscenities will be enough for some viewers to stay away on these grounds alone. These offenses include more than a dozen s-words, about six uses each of “d--n”, “a--,” “b--ch,” and “h---.” As if the obscenities are not enough, the name of Jesus is abused at least four times.
Sadly, these poor content choices sully surprisingly strong acting performances and characterizations. Ashton Kutcher, not known for having acting chops, seems to have blossomed in this role as Steve Jobs. Kutcher manages to become the character, losing his usual Kutcher persona, and demonstrates an emotional range that few may have known he possessed.
The rich characterization of the Steve Jobs in this screenplay, however, also deserves credit for Kutcher’s performance. He has terrific material to work with, provided by writer Matt Whiteley. The only artistic flaw in the otherwise impressive screenplay is the lack of smooth transitions between jumps in time periods. This script spans years of Steve Jobs’ life and, therefore, should be more careful about filling in the necessary information.
Perhaps in an effort to be artistic or to make an action-free drama feel faster paced, the filmmakers (writer, editor, and/or director) chop off the ends of scenes that viewers would like, and often even need, to see. As a result, audiences will spend some moments of several scenes in a confusing effort to figure out who certain characters are and what is implied about Steve by these unexplained changes in his life.
Interestingly, the filmmakers’ disregard of traditional rules concerning cuts, edits, and storytelling mimic the philosophy of the movie’s subject. Steve says those rule-breakers that he loves so much, as he is one of them, “the people crazy enough to try to change the world, are the ones that do.” Whether or not that claim is true, it begs the question, is that change good or bad?
More importantly, who are the people making the change, what do they stand for, and how are they bringing about change? The answer for Jobs is far from cool.
Check out these movies instead:
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (The Hatchery, 2009)
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Hallmark Hall of Fame, 2009)
George Washington Carver – An Uncommon Way (Documentary, Franklin Springs Family Media, 2010)
For more ideas, check out our What to Watch page!