One early scene in Jobs has Steve Jobs sitting miserably at the side of a stage, looking on as partner Steve Wozniak fumbles through their first presentation at the Homebrew Computer Club in a Stanford University classroom. Nerdy Woz is all technical details -- no magic.
That scene loomed large as I thought about the film and how disappointing it was.
Show, don’t tell is one of the tenets of storytelling, and its close cousin, presenting, is an art which Jobs perfected. And that's what is wrong with the Jobs biopic. It's all about telling, rather than showing. According to Carmine Gallo, writing on Forbes.com, the film is filled with actual quotes from the real-life Jobs, like this one:
"The greatest artists like Dylan, Picasso and Newton risked failure. And if we want to be great, we’ve got to risk it, too."
Nothing wrong with that quote. It's downright inspiring. The problem is that much of the movie is speechifying, not about the soul of the story. That's not to say Jobs has no sizzle. Ashton Kutcher offers plenty, thanks to his recreation of the entrepreneur with his magnetism, explosive outbursts and characteristic stooped and halting gait. Also thanks to Kutcher, the movie offers viewers a chance to reflect on Jobs's mastery of the art of corporate presentations.
His presentations inspired and entertained, connecting people with their dreams and touching their emotions.
OK, a biopic needs its share of exposition, so wordiness can be a built-in problem for the genre. But other filmmakers pull it off. Alan Sorkin is one example, telling the story of another high-tech entrepreneur in The Social Network. If anything, Jobs may make moviegoers hunger for Sorkin's own take on Jobs. He's reportedly writing a screenplay based on Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs.
Here's to hoping that film captures the magic of the man.
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