Open Road Films
What separates a biopic from any other character piece is that a "true story" isn't necessarily expected to resolve or redeem its central characters. Unlike their fictional counterparts, real people often stay bastards throughout adulthood, submitting in the end to the same fatal flaws that carried with them through their earlier acts. It is the charge of the filmmaker, as such, to extrapolate some meaning from the heap of misanthropy that is, in essence, his or her subject. Be it the wonder, the progress, or even the horror of the featured individual's journey, something must be pinpointed as a reason to remember the biographical story in question. What Jobs does, instead of working toward a reason for us to be enamored with or at least intrigued by the fascinating character that Steve Jobs was, is bank on the simple likelihood that we already know that.
Anyone going into a Jobs biopic has, presumably, an established interest in and familiarity with the founder of Apple, who died of cancer in 2011. But that shouldn't absolve the movie of its duty to prove to its audiences that Steve Jobs is a subject matter worth their while. It doesn't absolve Ashton Kutcher of his responsibility to build a real character, as opposed to just yelling when he's in an angry scene and sobbing when he's in a sad scene. But Jobs seemes unconcerned with its own obligations toward this story. It just wants to tell it.
As such, what we have is two hours of a Steve Jobs seminar. Director Joshua Michael Stern and star Kutcher chatting about Jobs' life and career, joking about his off-putting quirks and offensive hygiene, pulling no punches in discussing his less admirable choices (like abandoning his baby daughter, and firing Apple employees for voicing disagreement). Lucky for Stern, the story Is an interesting one. Jobs, for all his flaws, is a guy you'll enjoy hearing about. But all that is accomplished by JOBS could have been earned by picking up a textbook about his life. And those who have already done so, those who know Jobs' story well enough (those who are the most likely to check out this movie, in fact), will find themselves experiencing nothing new.
Open Road Films
But an even better problem with this method is that it results in an incomplete film. Some of the better biopics that do handle flawed characters like Steve Jobs manage to pull some sense of significance from their tales, affirming that we didn't just spend two hours watching some son of a bitch get away with being just that. Even in the darkest, saddest, most unsettling stories, it is necessary to leave the viewer with something. Something learned, changed, accomplished, earned. The director cannot help if it if the Jobs of the 2000s was the same self-driven man who used people and dismissed ideas in the '70s and '80s. But he can and must do something to work around that. To turn this collection of anecdotes into a comprehensive account, which warrants an ending that is different from its beginning. That's not just cinema, it's storytelling.
And without this effort put in to conform Jobs' life to the demands of the narrative medium, nor the effort to build him into an independently interesting character by Kutcher, we're left with a moreover dull time at the theater. Steve Jobs might be an interesting guy, and his story might be worth telling — that benefit of the doubt is probably the only thing keeping this movie afloat. In company with an external fixation on the man at its center, Jobs might work just around sea level as a piece of entertainment. But what we're looking at, here, is a standalone movie, and one that hasn't put in quite enough work to pay tribute to the man in question.
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This review previously appeared as part of Hollywood.com's coverage of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
After adorable but limiting roles in The Office I Love You Man Our Idiot Brother and her biggest part to date Parks and Recreation actress Rashida Jones nabs her meatiest part to date courtesy of her own script.
Celeste and Jesse Forever the brainchild of Jones and writing partner Will McCormick is a romantic comedy that feels perfectly comfortable treading into honest poignant relationship moments. It's obvious Jones co-wrote the movie every beat tailor made to draw out her best qualities. Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg) are longtime friends a perfect pair who eventually tie the knot and live happily for six years… until their relationship ends in divorce. But even with their impending separation the two can't help but remain best buds. Their friends are critical of the continued companionship but the pair work together to get back in the dating game. The journey forces the former couple to confront the truths and regrets both have harbored since first meeting.
Celeste and Jesse skips the big gags and sappy confessions in favor of grounding its characters in honest (and often uneasy) scenarios. Jones' and McCormick's script captures the kookiness ingrained in long lasting friendships from inside jokes (Celeste and Jesse routinely play a game where they perform sex acts with random objects) to the strange customs of Los Angelenos. Quirk isn't easy to pull off but director Lee Toland Krieger keeps the action intimate and restrained allowing Jones Samberg and the handful of exceptional supporting actors (including Erik Christian Olsen Ari Graynor Elijah Wood and Emma Roberts) to riff and joke without ever going broad.
If the movie was simply a string of hushed comedic sketches Celeste and Jesse Forever would fall into the familiar territory of meandering mumblecore but Jones and Samberg elevate the material with a surprising knack for the dramatic. In one of the film's more emotionally frank moments Jesse delvers a confession that solidifies the couple's dissipating relationship. The normally-goofball Samberg reels it back allowing quiet expression take the stage. The film may not land every intentionally heavy moment with perfect grace but watching two actors play against their established personas gives Celeste and Jesse extra (and exciting) punch.
Celeste and Jesse Forever is evidence Rashida Jones can deliver both behind and in front of the screen. In the right hands her talents can be mined to create a performance both daring and sweet. Celeste and Jesse suggests those "right hands" may be her own.
After a long search and many rumors, the producers of the highly successful Hunger Games franchise have officially settled on director Francis Lawrence to direct the second installment, Catching Fire.
Earlier this year, original Hunger Games helmer Gary Ross departed the project due to time constraints, leaving the gap wide open for a number of potential directors. After hints that Lawrence may step in, the deal has finally been sealed. In a statement released by Lionsgate (the studio behind the series), Lawrence was praised by producer Nina Jacobson: "From my first conversation with Francis, I knew he would make a great partner for both me and Suzanne [Collins, author]. His passion for Catching Fire and inspired ideas for a faithful adaptation make him the perfect director for this movie. I know this will be a wonderful collaboration and I cannot wait to get started."
Lawrence had his own enthusiastic words. "It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring Catching Fire, the second chapter of Suzanne’s beloved trilogy, to the big screen. I fell in love with the characters, the themes and the world she created and this chapter opens all of these elements up in such a thrilling, emotional and surprising way. I can’t wait to dive right into it and bring this chapter to life along with the truly superb cast and filmmakers involved."
According to the press release, there are eight more reasons to be excited: the entire cast is back, including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, with Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, and Woody Harrelson also signed on for their respective roles. Catching Fire is still set for its original release date, November 22, 2013, and Lawrence appears more than capable of pulling it off in time. So now that the production team is all locked, which actors should step in to the sequel's new roles. You tell us!
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