Most people recognized Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates from Psycho. But he is also known, unflatteringly, for his performance as baseball player Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out. It was a historically and hysterically bad case of miscasting.
Equally conspicuous is Ashton Kutcher in Jobs. Kutcher is not a very good actor, but that’s not really the problem here. He simply does not project the ethos of Steve Jobs. The iconic Apple genius was both an autocratic leader and a dreamer, which no screenplay or Actors Studio training can guarantee from any performance. Ashton Kutcher just doesn’t have that. The process of Kutcher’s acting, incidentally, is terribly noticeable -- from Jobs’ walk to his cadence -- something you never want out of a performance.
Beyond that, though, Jobs is serviceable. The story revolves around the business of Apple more than you might expect; whether that’s because Jobs was hard to know or something else is anyone’s guess. But it does raise an interesting point: Are biopics about the events of someone’s life, or the person who evolved through those events? If it’s the former, then great -- here’s Jobs launching the Apple II, getting shitcanned from the company he started, returning as the prodigal son, unveiling the iPod.
If, however, you really want to know more about Steve Jobs than a chronology can provide, you’re stuck. Lots of biopics make this mistake of cramming in key moments many people will recognize. Sometimes it works. Jobs, on the other hand, gives us a fully formed and mature Steve Jobs every step of the way. He’s the same at 19 as he is at 50, because Steve Jobs isn’t a character in this movie, he’s only a witness.
Most of the supporting players, especially Josh Gad as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, are pretty good. The period details are meticulously well-placed. But Kutcher’s work and the shallow and narrow screenplay are hard to overcome.
JOBS, Ashton Kutcher, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, rated PG-13, 122 mins.