What happens when a major historical figure has two competing biopics and one of them becomes more popular than the other? That becomes more complicated when the reasons for that biopic being popular is because the interpretation of that notable is more in tune to populist taste than the truth. With Steve Jobs still so beloved by many, it was still a horrible tasting lemon for some to read how sometimes controversial he really was in the official biography by Walter Isaacson.
It’s no secret that Jobs has become the Walt Disney of his generation where we have a certain point of view we prefer to store in our minds forever. With the Ashton Kutcher-starring
jOBS” capping off the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, it’s appearing that audiences are enjoying it while critics decimate its falsities. And that could pose a bit of a problem for the Aaron Sorkin-penned “Steve Jobs” biopic that releases at some point later this year.
The reasons behind that may fall squarely on dialogue itself and how that dialogue relates to what people think Jobs was as a person. In recent online clips of “jOBS”, we see Steve Jobs as a man we envision convinced Steve Wozniak and others in his orbit to go with his technological visions. As well, we wouldn’t expect Ashton Kutcher to be anything other than garrulous in most every scene, even if the adjectives spoken aren’t accurate.
Most of us do picture Jobs talking in the style of Kutcher when behind closed doors, only because he did talk similarly when in front of the camera. But the worst aspect to biopics is in depicting the notable conversing in a way we all saw them in public places. One of the most egregious examples of speech in film is in depicting Franklin Delano Roosevelt, even right up to Bill Murray’s performance in “Hyde Park on Hudson.”
We can’t always comprehend seeing the depiction of an icon talking in a more natural way when working behind their curtain. In that regard, it may give automatic points to Aaron Sorkin who knows how to write natural dialogue amid all the verbiage. If that translates to Steve Jobs giving valiant speeches to his co-workers about the advent of the personal computer, at least we know the words will be mostly accurate.
How they’ll be spoken is another manner when Steve Wozniak said Jobs was much more soft-spoken in the 1970s. Whoever the actor is that the Sorkin biopic picks to play Jobs may be forced into doing something different to stand apart from the Kutcher film. By the time that happens, a set idea may have developed of what people expect rather than desiring the truth.
Perhaps that’s the advantage now when an official biopic is made and a more populist take happens to release first. We may see such a thing again later this year when Tom Hanks plays the first cinematic depiction of Walt Disney in “Saving Mr. Banks.” A future biopic showing more expansive truth may someday be unsettling when audiences still accept less definitive movies as having the possibility of being truer than the icon’s heirs or estate admit.
If that’s the future of the biopic, then official versions may end up being hurt at the box office when U.S. audiences perhaps enjoy the art of mystery in what’s true and what isn’t in the people who shaped our world.