So, I just finished Jobs (the Ashton Kutcher one) and a few weeks ago I watched Steve Jobs (the Michael Fassbender one). I compared them the whole time and wanted to write a post comparing them because art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in a bowling alley where a bunch of dads meet to eat popcorn and blow off steam and discuss the competing merits of art.
So, there’s really not much of a debate here in my mind, I really really liked Steve Jobs (the Michael Fassbender one) and did not like at all Jobs (the Ashton Kutcher one, and I promise I won’t do that again in the post, but I might again actually because it’s very confusing).
Steve Jobs (Fassbender) takes an unstructured approach that I’ve never seen a biopic do before. They split his whole life up into all the major product launches of his career. Then they only show us the ten minutes or so right before each launch. We get filled in on the details that have happened over the years through context clues or flashbacks but most every scene and all the information they contain is through these hectic/intense moments before a huge unveiling. This version focuses on his relationship with his daughter Lisa, his personal assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), his partner/oldest friend Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan) and a bunch of others that kind of come in and out over the years: the mother of his child (Katherine Waterston), the Pepsi CEO (Jeff Daniels), and other notable people he’s worked with.
Through this we learned lots and lots about him, especially the difficult balance between genius and asshole that he seemed to ride with ease (Kanye is right, he is exactly like Steve Jobs and anyone who can’t see that just doesn’t want to). Fassbender’s Jobs is so frustratingly callous at times to his daughter, people he’s worked with for over 10 years, friends, etc., you just wonder, what the fuck is wrong with you Steve?? Take a chill pill, pull the turtleneck out a bit! But you come to accept it’s just who he is.
In DIRECT contrast, the Ashton Kutcher one plays like an inspirational football movie but with computers, where Steve seems like a tough guy but he also gives and has rewarding moments where he learns from others, and at the heart of things is just a curmudgeonly billionaire who’s just a little too hard on his employees at times but can still laugh over breakfast about eggs or something. In this one I never got a feel for a unique personality, it just seemed like Ashton Kutcher acting the same role he kind of always does, a lovable but stubborn whomever.
In Jobs (Ashton) there were parts of his life that it seemed like the filmmakers had to include (for example that he didn’t want to sign the visitation rights document, or that he said that there were 1.5 million people in California who could be the father of that child besides him) because it’s public knowledge/very famous information, but it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of his personality in the movie. In this version, first they present him as this asshole who denies he’s Lisa’s father, then a few years later without any explanation suddenly he’s a normal family man and he and Lisa are just paling around the house, having repartee and eating toast.
In Steve Jobs (Fassbender) they show all the ups and downs of Lisa learning about his very public refusal of her, navigating how hard love and a relationship are for him, differing opinions about money, her mom, ideas-it’s a fully fleshed out relationship. In Jobs (Ashton) she’s more just like an afterthought that they kinda had to squeeze in there. Also in Jobs, Steve Job’s secretary isn’t even in there at all! Not even a non-speaking part, she just isn’t a character in the movie. (According to IMDB she’s in there but I watched it and was looking for her and didn’t find her). In Steve Jobs (Fassbender), she’s the other main role. That seems an odd discrepancy that I would be curious about the politics behind. I’m curious about a lot of the different choices between the films.
A lot of the things Jobs (Ashton) cover are similar to the answer to the question, “Why did Leelee Sobieski leave Hollywood for good?”-no one cares. (I spent a lot of time on IMDB today). It seems like they just took a chronological approach, like when you are five and you draw a story map. They found all the major plot points in his life and just went through them in order. Whereas Steve Jobs (Fassbender) figured out who he is as a person and crafted a film that could present moments where he showed that the most.
The irony about the Ashton Kutcher one is that they’re presenting him as some kind of radical outside of the box innovator but they present it in the most uniform, boring, tired way. I think Steve Jobs would respect how unique a storytelling structure the Michael Fassbender one is. Also Kate Winslet does a phenomenal job, she’s so subtly layered and it’s really interesting to find out her boundaries and motivations as the movie goes on.
After doing the most surface level research I found out that Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay for the good one and Dany Boyle directed it, so, that makes sense. The director of the other one is Joshua Michael Stern and the “Known For” movies on his IMDB page are all things I’ve never heard of that look bad. He’s also a writer on all of them, maybe this was his first big directing role. I’m sure his mom would tell him otherwise and she can, but he did not do a good job. There are scenes where soft music plays as someone says something inspiring and then Ashton Kutcher looks down and smiles and then it cuts to him doing something inspirational. Also in Ashton’s he at many different times asks other people their opinions on one of his ideas and if I believe the Michael Fassbender one at all, I don’t think Steve Jobs would EVER do that. He was just a boss ass bitch who knew what he wanted and was a complete asshole to everyone around him to get it but it brought us these true wonders (ipod, iphone, mac) that changed how we think of and use technology.
I guess one of the biggest differences in approach and execution is that the Ashton Kutcher one tried to make him likable but he ultimately he didn’t need to be likable because he was right.
Theory: Maybe when there’s two biopics that come out around the same time about the same person there is always one that’s clearly better, like what we’re seeing here and with both those Truman Capote movies. Capote was clearly better and I bet you never even saw Infamous. Well I did and I saw both of these as well and I’m gonna save you the time. Although once you watch Steve Jobs (Fassbender) you’re so curious about him you’re gonna want to see the other one, then you’re gonna be disappointed and then you’re gonna be exactly where I am right now. (Alone in my room).
Anyway, would masturbate again a bunch to the Michael Fassbender one (four out of five perfectly square black cubes), never again to the Ashton Kutcher one (two out of seven ipod shuffles), which is not what I would have predicted at all!!!!
Thank you for bearing with this very confusing breakdown where often I refer to a whole movie as “the other one” and try to talk about two things with basically the same name in a very confined ideological space. Bowling lanes, you get it.