It’s a wonder what publicity photos can do in giving you an assumption about an actor leaping from passable to serious. Such is the case for Ashton Kutcher who we finally see in the guise of Steve Jobs for his upcoming biopic “jOBS” that screens at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Despite being just one photo, it shows a far more focused Kutcher than we were used to seeing when he last dressed in 1970s clothes for a certain TV show on a particular network that rhymes with Ox.
Yet the question lingers whether that serious gaze into the camera doesn’t have a large tongue in cheek hidden behind the intensity. You can’t really name one role that Kutcher has done to date where we don’t see an emergent smirk to break any chance of dramatic tone. Yes, he’s done some films that are branded drama, even if they’ve never been a drama with a true sense of purpose.
Steve Jobs was such an intense person within the public eye during his nascent years that it requires a sense of focus and not clear insouciance. There also has to be some reflection of ferocity in Jobs’ push for innovation that Kutcher never has demonstrated in a role. With that, there’s always the danger of overacting to the point where Kutcher won’t be rendered believable.
That’s where the division may lie between the Kutcher version of Steve Jobs’ life and the sanctioned biopic from the Walter Isaacson biography. Who will be the actor willing to assimilate himself into the world of Jobs so profoundly that we’ll believe he really is Jobs rather than just an actor pretending to be the Apple founder? We have to give Kutcher the benefit of the doubt based on clues to his career.
So far, Kutcher has only been truly successful when paired with another actor (or actress) in numerous rom coms of variable quality. In most of those cases, the actress usually out-acted him, even if he provided a bit of charm in the repartee mix. His most recent example is “No Strings Attached” where acting opposite Natalie Portman might be comparable to Bob Hope once acting alongside Katharine Hepburn in “The Iron Petticoat.”
It’s why going from that to an assumed scenario of carrying the entire film on Kutcher’s own is so transforming in theory. And the assumption that he can is a huge leap of faith in the producers of “jOBS”, plus the intended audience. However, if there’s anything Kutcher can do well in the vein of Steve Jobs, it’s being garrulous.
One promotional picture can’t tell you everything in selling a movie. But if that intensity in the picture holds true, we can at least expect Kutcher to be game in holding a film on his own without an ensemble. That may change should the film show the romantic side of Jobs with his past relationships and wife, something the credits don’t reflect.
Assuming Kutcher can truly hold a movie himself for 90 minutes, get ready for updated promotional pics of Kutcher the thespian rather than half hearted actor who looks like he’s still hosting “Punk’d.”