updated 01:16 am EDT, Tue August 20, 2013
Audiences, early Apple employees both give film mixed ratings
The opening weekend haul of the independent biopic Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher as the Apple CEO and co-founder fell short of distributor Open Road Films' hopes, bringing in $6.7 million across 2,381 screens in North America -- less than the $8-$9 million expected, but more than half of the estimated $12 million cost of the film. Critics and Apple fans tended to give the movie harsher notices -- noting the lower production values, shortcuts in the storytelling and focus more on Apple than Jobs himself, while mainstream audiences generally viewed Kutcher's portrayal of Jobs and Josh Gad's portrayal of Steve Wozniak with somewhat more favor than critics.
Film criticism site Rotten Tomatoes found that critics gave the film an average rating of 26 percent, while audiences rated the film twice as well at 53 percent -- still well below the threshold of a high-quality film but considerably less severe than critics, perhaps due to the more serious effort of lead Ashton Kutcher to capture the mercurial Jobs, a departure from his mostly lighter-comedy roles. Josh Gad also won critical praise for making his version of Wozniak charming and relatable, even if the portrayal won't win any points for accuracy from the Apple community -- or from Wozniak himself.
The film will likely go on to be profitable, with many fans of Jobs willing to see the film despite some harsh notices and a number of key events -- such as Jobs' creation of NeXT and acquisition and leadership of Pixar -- left out. A separate film biography of Jobs, being made by Sony Pictures on a very high budget, is in the works with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin working on the story, which will tell Jobs' story through three pivotal product debuts: the original Mac, the introduction of NeXT hardware, and of Jobs' return to Apple and the introduction of the iPod.
Jobs focuses more on Jobs's post-college and early Apple life, though there are brief scenes set later as a middle-aged Jobs introduces the iPod in 2001. Tech site Slashdot interviewed two early Apple employees for their reaction to the film. Daniel Kottke, a key early friend of Jobs -- who was portrayed in the film by Lucas Haas -- who has seen the film, and engineer Bill Fernandez, who seemed a bit afraid to see it.
Kottke was generally okay with the film, particularly Kutcher's portrayal, which he said he had "no problem at all" with. He and Fernandez agreed that the characterization of Wozniak was less successful, not fully capturing Woz' sense of humor (though there is some reference to it in the film) with Kottke mentioning several moments in the film where Woz' reactions "rang false." Kottke also said that while a scene dealing with Wozniak's retirement from Apple was "one of the best in the movie," it was also a "complete fabrication" and nothing like how it actually happened.
Kottke said he was very impressed with the recreation of the West Coast Computer Faire in the movie, but even that failed to persuade Fernandez that he should see the film. Fernandez said that he could see early on in talking with Victor Rasuk (the actor that portrayed Fernandez) that the film would be too much of a work of fiction and that it would probably upset him to see things that didn't happen on the screen. Kottke said that some of the invented scenes were necessary to tell the story of what happened in a "cinematic" way, citing that his own falling out with Jobs consisted of Jobs simply not talking to him; a behavior that would not be possible to film realistically.
Both men shared a laugh over the portrayal of the earliest days of working at Apple, when the company was based out of Jobs' parents garage. While the scenes were actually filmed at the garage itself, Jobs portrays a number of people working in the garage all at the same time, whereas Kottke said in reality he was the only one work regularly worked at the garage, with Jobs "on the phone most of the time." Kottke mentioned that the earlier film about Apple and the early days of the PC, Pirates of Silicon Valley got that detail wrong as well, but added that Noah Wylie's portrayal of Jobs was even more uncanny than Kutcher's.