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Laramie Movie Scope: Jobs

A movie about this guy named Steve Jobs

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 5, 2013 -- I was curious about this guy named Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, an iconic and powerful company, so I went to see the movie about him, titled “Jobs.” It reminded me of a similar film, “The Social Network,” which tells basically the same story.

I wasn't surprised at all by what I saw in the movie, which was interesting, but not compelling. Steve Jobs comes across as exactly who I thought he was, a kind of useful psychopath, or perhaps more of a sociopath (Google “Steve Jobs” with the words psychopath or sociopath, and you'll find a wealth of material supporting this view, and you'll get the pretty much the same if you substitute Mark Zuckerberg in the same kind of search).

Steve Jobs comes across in this movie as a ruthless, unfeeling man with no particular social skills. What he has, instead of a nice personality, is a gift for industrial design, a vision for the practical uses of the personal computer, and a kind of obsessive-compulsive drive to succeed. I can see why Steve Jobs has become an object of worship for many, but what bothers me is the high price of Apple products, the overseas tax avoidance policies of the company, and the fact that their products are made overseas, some in factories so awful that nets were erected to prevent the underpaid, overworked employees there from committing suicide. Prior to Apple, it was rare for such a wealthy American company to make money for so few, while providing such a small number of American jobs. Sadly, that isn't unusual any more.

The main difference between Zuckerberg and Jobs seems to be that Zuckerberg was not a lady's man in his younger years, but Jobs was. He had beautiful women falling all over him, even when he was broke. It must be nice.

The film begins with Jobs (played by Ashton Kutcher) introducing the iPod, but it immediately flashes back to Jobs early days at Reed College in Portland Oregon, a top academic school. He followed a typical Baby Boomer trajectory of self-exploration, travels to India, spiritual journeys and seemingly aimless wanderings and sexual encounters until he finally found his passion in life, computers.

His old buddies Bill Fernandez (played in the film by Victor Rasuk) and Steve Wozniak (played by Josh Gad) had tinkered together a primitive kind of personal computer called “the cream soda computer.” To them, it was just fun, but to Jobs, he saw business possibilities in the early computer designs. In the film, Fernandez takes a back seat, and Jobs is the guy who gets the financing to get Apple Computers off the ground. As soon as Jobs gets some power, his friends notice that he changes. He doesn't see computers as being fun, he sees them as products to be sold, and he demands total design control.

After the initial success of Apple, Jobs gets ruthless during the initial public offering, and cuts several old friends out of the big money who helped build the first Apple computers. For example, 300 Apple investors and employees became millionaires from the Initial Public Offering, but later, 12,000 Microsoft employees would become millionaires from its IPO. Jobs didn't spread the wealth around like Gates does. Jobs eventually gets rid of everyone who helped him get to the top, including the money man who financed his startup, Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney). There are other ugly incidents along the way, including Jobs denying that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, despite a court ruling to the contrary.

There is a brief mention in the movie of a lawsuit by Apple against Microsoft involving a copyright dispute over a computer operating system. In the movie, it looks like the system in dispute is MS-DOS, the old Microsoft non-graphical operating system from the 1980s. An angry Jobs yells at Gates in a phone conversation that he is going to own 90 percent of Microsoft's earnings after he wins the lawsuit. This intrigued me, because I know that Apple won no such result in court, and that, in fact, there has been substantial corporate interlocking relationships between the two companies over the years. It turns out this part of the movie is very misleading and greatly oversimplified. In real life, the lawsuit involved the Windows operating system, not MS-DOS, and Apple lost its suit, apparently in large part because of a pre-existing software license agreement between Microsoft and Apple for Windows 1.

While this film is quite similar in terms of the basic story to “The Social Network,” critical and popular reaction to them has been radically different, probably because Jobs, and Apple are much better liked than Zuckerberg and Facebook. People don't mind a movie that puts down Zuckerberg, but they don't like a movie that puts down Jobs. I don't don't particularly like either of these people, and I have never used any of their products or services, so I don't care, either way. “The Social Network” is the better movie of the two, but these two films tell essentially the same story.

While Ashton Kutcher and some other actors are very good in this movie it is not a compelling story, but then I didn't find “The Social Network” very compelling, either. In both films, the weakness is in the central characters. If you happen to like them, or dislike them intensely, you may be moved by these films. I am not fascinated by either Jobs or Zuckerberg. I've dealt with people like them before, and it is not a pleasant, or even interesting, experience. It is just difficult and annoying. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)