A full two years before Michael Fassbender hit movie screens as Apple computer co-founder Steve Jobs, Ashton Kutcher phenomenally portrayed the boorish genius in 2013’s “Jobs.” It’s a sensational companion piece that will also have you feeling less in the dark if you view this one before the current release. A true biopic, it follows Jobs from a barefooted unregistered student at Reed College searching for something of interest through his tumultuous invention and leadership of a technological empire.
Just the sound of Ashton Kutcher’s name in the role seems like the most impossibly unlikely of unlikely choices. Yet, for the first time in his career, he proves in a very big way that he is a serious actor with a dynamite performance that completely embodies all the complexity of the man behind the Mac and Ipod. He brings some humanity to the callous and unlikeable Jobs and at times even shows hints of madness. That might explain his unyielding intolerance for anyone with less intense enthusiasm and drive than himself and for anyone or anything viewed as an obstacle to his goal. His cavalier attitude towards people and relationships leaves a lifelong trail of devastation.
Perhaps no one is hit harder than his childhood friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). Right from the first, Jobs uses Woz to save his own job at Atari and cheats him out of a fair share of the pay. He then grabs Woz and his computer board that can hook up to a television idea and begins a small mass production in his parents’ garage. Later, he even comes to the simple name for their company while driving around with Woz. But ultimately, their partnership becomes too much for Woz to bear and he must leave Jobs. Josh Gad, another unlikely casting choice, also shows some surprisingly fantastic acting chops. His heartfelt goodbye to Jobs is absolutely devastating.
Also very good is Dermot Mulroney as Mike Markkula. He gives Jobs and his team their first bankroll though he was expecting a group who looked “something a little less Manson family.” Another unexpected and equally good performance comes from Matthew Modine as John Sculley, the CEO Jobs brings on board to turn his ideas into reality. Yet even they both eventually fall victim to the unstoppable and unfeeling force that is Steve Jobs.
A lot of period music drives the early days in the film and some of those moments are depicted in too much of a hyperactive rock-and-roll style. However, things just as quickly settle into a fascinating and constantly forward moving narrative. You won’t like Jobs personally, but you’ll be riveted to his story and to the performances of Kutcher and those around him.