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'Jobs' Sundance Review Round-Up: Ashton Kutcher Nearly Pulls Off Steve Jobs Impersonation (VIDEO)

Thompson on Hollywood By Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood January 28, 2013 at 5:30PM

"jOBs", directed by Joshua Michael Stern, is a straight-forward biopic, following the visionary's journey from hippie college dropout to ruthless technology czar. The movie, which closed the Sundance Festival on Friday, features Ashton Kutcher as the Apple genius - a role he acknowledged was a big risk for him. At the premiere, Kutcher said: “I knew I was throwing myself into a gauntlet of criticism, and this became the most terrifying thing I have done in my life.” Many critics think that he deserves lampooning, but others praise the natural physicality he brings to the role.
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Ashton Kutcher in 'Jobs'
Open Road Films Ashton Kutcher in 'Jobs'

"jOBs", directed by Joshua Michael Stern, is a straight-forward biopic, following the visionary's journey from hippie college dropout to ruthless technology czar.  The movie, which closed the Sundance Festival on Friday, features Ashton Kutcher as the Apple genius - a role he acknowledged was a big risk for him.  At the premiere, Kutcher said: “I knew I was throwing myself into a gauntlet of criticism, and this became the most terrifying thing I have done in my life.” Many critics think that he deserves lampooning, but others praise the natural physicality he brings to the role.  Overall, critics consider the film to be too safe and tame; and it fails to engage properly with the "human" element of Jobs' story.  Out of the five reviews listed below, three compare the film to an Apple commercial.

Ashton Kutcher Sundance

Below is the first clip of "jOBS", the sort of inside glance that the real Jobs notoriously would have banned.  While the clip below does feature simultaneous walking and talking, it's worth repeating that this is not the Aaron Sorkin biopic; Sorkin is working on his own screenplay about Jobs' life, to be played out in three acts surrounding major Apple product releases.  Stern's "jOBS" will be released in theaters on April 19, 2013.  No score yet on Rotten Tomatoes or MetaCritic.

David D'Arcy | Screen Daily

Stern mixes in plenty of Jobs’s ugliness and pettiness, but the film anoints him as a prophet with an urgent vision. Mistreatment of others is tolerated as necessary collateral damage on a visionary’s way to a greater good.
In the photo-shopping of the Jobs character, crucial details are lost – his adoption and the psychological scars left from being given away by his birth parents; the striking aesthetic refinement of recent Apple products, beginning with the iPod; a grim losing battle with cancer, which humanised an arrogant enfant terrible. You can watch this drama on an iPhone without sacrificing much.  Apple’s commercials have more visual invention - and brevity.

Sebastian Doggart | Telegraph

It’s a heroic story, but Matthew Whiteley’s episodic, superficial script makes an almighty mess of it. Early on, when Jobs dumps his pregnant girlfriend and then refuses to recognise his newly born daughter as his own, he is established as unlikeable. Yet while focusing on Jobs’s professional rise and his brutally demanding working practices, Whiteley gives us no insight into Jobs’s Buddhist beliefs, or his capacity for love and tenderness. The poverty of [Kutcher's] skills as a serious actor is on full display. His diction is incoherent. He clumsily signposts every emotion he thinks his character should feel: smug smiles for triumph; exaggerated scowls for disgust; nail-biting for anxiety.

Justin Lowe | Hollywood Reporter

Playing somewhat like a two-hour commercial covering the first 20 tumultuous years of Apple’s development, Joshua Michael Stern’s biopic of Steve Jobs is a passably entertaining account of the career of one of the 20th century’s great innovators that doesn’t break any stylistic ground, hewing closely to public perception of the tech giant. jKutcher has an advantage in the role with his passing resemblance to Jobs, but he also faithfully re-creates some of his character's physical mannerisms for additional dimensionality. He manages a fair imitation of Jobs’ speaking style as well, particularly when delivering a number of monologues, usually while haranguing his employees or board of directors.

Justin Chang | Variety

The casting of Ashton Kutcher turns out to be the sole risky element of "Jobs," a smooth, reasonably engaging but not especially revealing early-years account of Steve Jobs' storied career. Offering a creditable take on the 20-year period in which the determined young tech whiz founded, lost and eventually regained control of Apple, helmer Joshua Michael Stern's biopic avoids outright hagiography, but more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned.

Eric Kohn | Indiewire

The first scene of "jOBS" plays like an Apple commercial. Set in 2001 at an Apple town hall meeting, the introductory sequence finds company visionary Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) addressing staffers by revealing the first edition of the iPod. With John Debney's symphonic score emboldening Jobs' optimistic delivery, the man describes the iPod as "a tool for the heart" and the room applauds. The lack of irony borders on the creepy… It's hard to stay invested in this light overview of Apple's history when the screenplay fails to make the human element count.


 

This article is related to: Steve Jobs, Sundance Film Festival, Festivals, Festivals, Reviews, Reviews, Ashton Kutcher


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.