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Articles: Jobs: A Movie Review

Being an ordinary schmoe, it’s certainly a rare circumstance to find myself with personal, first-hand knowledge about anyone featured in a major theatre biopic. I never met Steve face-to-face (I never wanted to; I didn’t want to risk our Apple authorization on the chance of making a wrong comment to the man), but I was in the same room with him on a number of occasions, including some of his most famous keynotes. And of course, his shadow and name loomed heavily over many of the discussions we had with corporate executives, inside and outside of the Cupertino campus.

In addition, I was armed with the memory of reading the excellent biography by Walter Isaacson. With all that in mind, it was unlikely that the movie would provide any surprises. But for those who don't know much about him, it's not a bad overview. Like most biographical movies, it suffers from taking the more than 300,000 waking hours of his life and distilling it down to two hours. Because it presented such a broad sweep, the truth is that having a camera trained on him during a two hour design meeting might have been just as interesting.

Otherwise, it felt as if the movie consisted mainly of two things: checking off the most notable and definable “personality events,” and spending quite a bit of time on the boardroom maneuverings that got him both kicked out and then back into Apple.

We’re exposed to the fact that he was adopted. Check. He disowned his out-of-wedlock daughter, Lisa. Check. He dropped acid. Check. He went through a period of bad hygiene. Check. He had odd eating habits. Check. He summarily and publicly fired an employee on the spot. Check. He parked in the handicapped zones. Check. He screamed at Bill Gates promising him that he’d get 90 cents of every dollar Gates would ever earn. Check. He was ruthless and ungenerous. Check.

In other words, it felt like they just created a checklist of those definable characteristics and simply presented a scene to mark each one on the list. Those were then draped around the subplot of him getting fired and then invited back into the company. That’s pretty much the script.

Perhaps Ashton Kutcher contributed to the sense that this was not much more than a made-for-TV movie by not offering an Oscar-worthy performance. But then again, we wouldn’t expect that of Kutcher. What we did get was a notable similarity in appearance. He mimicked Jobs pretty well. It did look to me like he was working a little too hard to mime Jobs’ simian gait at times, but in the end it was a credible job of mimicry, just not one of great acting.

On a personal level, I viewed the movie with a small sense of sadness, of watching a life that was wasted to some extent. That might sound odd when Jobs certainly accomplished enough to have a whole movie (and more than one) made about him, something you can say about very few humans. But when you consider all the negative, boorish and selfish behaviors, and the sacrifices so many of those around him had to make in an effort to, ultimately, simply make a better product, I couldn’t help but wonder what truly world-changing things he might have accomplished had he put that same passion toward something more beneficial than consumer technology. Indeed, if I had to pin the future of the world on anyone, it would be Woz, not Jobs. Woz not only was just as responsible for the founding of Apple, but he has consistently demonstrated that he is simply a fine human being and a good example of someone worthy of emulating. I’d hate think that any aspiring CEO’s exposed to Job's behavior would then believe that you have to be a complete asshole to be an effective CEO. It made Jobs more fascinating I suppose, but definitely not a good example to follow.

A quote posted on the internet said: “In 50 years from now there will be monuments dedicated to Bill Gates throughout the third world. Steve Jobs will be forgotten like the founders of Xerox.” Because of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and Bill’s determination to rid the world of many diseases, that statement may prove to be prescient. And it’s too bad, because the passion Jobs brought to so many things could have done so much more. While I’ve always detested Windows and most Microsoft products, I have to tip my cap to Bill for using his wealth for the serious betterment of all humanity. Perhaps Jobs was robbed of “Jobs 2.0” by an early death, but I don’t recall hearing of any examples of generosity exhibited by the man. He didn’t seem to have that in him.

In any case, if you knew little of the details of Jobs life and aren’t inclined to read a whole book to find out, this will punch that ticket just fine. It really wouldn’t hurt to wait to see it after the movie hits iTunes (it’ll play just fine as a TV movie), which will also provide a little irony and synchronicity in that you get to watch a man’s biography through the means he helped bring to market.

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