Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. and known the world over for inventing, conceiving, and marketing a variety of technological tools, died on October 5, 2011. Only eighteen months later jOBS, a feature dramatic film about his life, began circulating among theaters. The production’s quick turnaround is a testament to how technology has created a desire for immediacy—something the Jobs’ revolution helped to make possible.
Breaking from his usual genre, Aston Kutcher takes on the difficult role of playing the ultimate whiz kid. While I had never noticed a resemblance between Kutcher and Jobs in the past, with some makeup and superb technique, the former That ‘70s Show star moves into a new realm. The walk, the talk and the arrogance are all there as we watch one of the most admired men in the world cheat his best buddy Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) out of thousands of dollars during Apple’s infancy—and we chalk it up to shrewd business tactics.
Deceiving poor “Woz” on a business deal pales in comparison to a later scene where Jobs hasn’t the courage to admit his paternity for his daughter Lisa. (The movie later shows Lisa, played by Annika Bertea, living with her father.) Other depictions paint him as a businessman spewing disparaging remarks and firing employees with an indifferent efficiency. It all fits with the strong-willed personality Jobs became famous for. And these illustrations develop a theme that becomes the rigid backbone of this screenplay.
Due to the public profile of this hero of all things tech, the story within jOBS is likely to influence young people who make the effort to see this film. Portrayals of post-hippie era sex and pot parties, along with frequent profanities and two sexual expletives, are certainly surface concerns for parents considering whether this biopic is appropriate for teen viewing. Deeper issues arise from the messages presented (within the context of what is included in this script) of a man who we are expected to admire as an economic and technical genius, even while he treats others as mere obstacles in the way of his success.
It is important to remember of course that the media interprets personalities and events through a very narrow lens. In the case of motion pictures, typically it is the director and screenwriter who control the lens. Because just a few people were actually able to have personal experiences with Steve Jobs, the rest of us can only speculate about the real personality of the mastermind behind the many gadgets we now revere, and even worship. Undoubtedly many aspects of this man’s life are left out of this movie, and others may be distorted. Yet based on what we see in this film, jOBS illuminates our society’s attraction to economic ingenuity that often comes with little regard for humanity.