jOBS, the Ashton Kutcher-fronted biopic about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, premiered over the weekend at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in the States.
Appearing a little over a year after Jobs died, aged 56, jOBS is one of two films about the visionary Apple CEO currently vying for attention, the other being Walter Isaacson’s three-act effort from Sony Pictures, entitled Steve Jobs.
But despite all the hype surrounding jOBS, director Joshua Michael Stern has so far received rather mixed reviews for his indie feature.
The Guardian’s reviewer Ed Gibbs gave the film only two stars and said that it “provides an overly reverential and saccharine view of a complex man possessed by ambition.”
Gibbs added: “The results… are mixed. This is far from the bomb some would have envisaged, but neither is it the character illumination one would wish for. Jobs appears so consumed by his work here that little else mattered in his life. That may be true, but we’re left none the wiser as to what made the man tick, beyond what we already know.”
Sebastian Doggart, writing in The Daily Telegraph, was even more scathing about jOBS. He described it as an “almighty mess” and said: “Where the film completely falls down is in director Joshua Michael Stern’s disastrous decision to cast Ashton Kutcher in the central role.
“The poverty of his 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.”
CNET’s Casey Newton disagreed that Kutcher was the main problem with jOBS. In his review, Newton says that the script’s “fawning” portrayal of Jobs ignores much of the rich dramatic material of the man’s life, such as his well-documented prediliction for “yelling”, missing deadlines and overspending budgets.
Newton wrote: “There is great drama to be found in all that, but it is not to be found in the saccharine ‘jOBS.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Justin Lowe said that while jOBS was “a biopic that’s perhaps too respectful” which played out “like a two-hour commercial”, the fact that it was also “frequently engaging” was “an indication of [its makers’] studious dedication to the project.”
Calling the film a “tame biopic” and awarding it a C+ grade, Indiewire’s Eric Kohn complained that “the movie can’t get a handle on how to portray its subject”.
He wrote: “It’s hard to stay invested in this light overview of Apple’s history when the screenplay fails to make the human element count.
“As a whole, the movie inevitably suffers from comparison to The Social Network, another recent biopic about cutthroat tech innovators that’s superior in every way… the problem with jOBS is that it plays too safe.”
AndVariety’s Justin Chang echoed that sentiment in his less-than-glowing appraisal of the film. He said jOBS “more or less embodies the sort of bland, go-with-the-flow creative thinking Jobs himself would have scorned”.
Chang summed up his feelings about the film by saying: “Ultimately, Jobs is a prosaic but not unaffecting tribute to the virtues of defiance, nonconformity, artistry, beauty, craftsmanship, imagination and innovation, qualities it only intermittently reflects as a piece of filmmaking.”
jOBS is due to be released in the United States in April 2013, with a UK release date yet to be confirmed. Watch a clip from the film here.