Comparing Sony’s Official 'Steve Jobs' Biopic, Unoffical 'Jobs'

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For those who read the question in the title to this article first, your first answer may automatically be: "Hey, Mr. astute writer, Aaron Sorkin is writing the latter." Yes, that may be true, and the dialogue (plus observations) in Sony Pictures Entertainment's official Jobs biopic should be cracking because of that.

Still, you can say one thing about Sorkin's writing: It takes a skilled actor to read one of his scripts in a way that makes it sound even more brilliant than it already is.

What's truly interesting here is that the official "Steve Jobs" movie won't have to make up myriad lines. Most of the dialogue has already been written, which might leave a sense of structure separating the unofficial "Jobs" from the authorized one.

Oh, you can also add the differences between Ashton Kutcher and whoever it is who plays the "official" Steve Jobs.

Or perhaps we're just making quick assumptions here based on Kutcher's track record for not being the second coming of Laurence Olivier. When I recently wrote about whether Kutcher's stunning resemblance to a young Steve Jobs really mattered in a biopic, I noted that many actors we think are below average frequently surprise us in a movie eventually. It only takes just the right project to show off the glint of talent that must have impressed a talent agent somewhere in the past.

As variable as his acting is, Kutcher may have assimilated Steve Jobs, even though recent publicity shots look like he's straight out of Madame Tussaud's wax museum. If, through some strange quirk of fate, Kutcher's unofficial Jobs performance impresses audiences and critics, it places the Sony project in a difficult place. That particular place is perhaps making Jobs's life look too, well, garrulous.

Shoot back to the point of Aaron Sorkin: It's clear he loves to make his characters talk. While the dialogue he writes is the brilliant equivalent to screenplays written by Howard Hawks, a movie with too much dialogue could ultimately be a detriment to mainstream audiences. Coming from yours truly who loves movies with a lot of dialogue, it's not easy to say that.

But despite Jobs leaving behind plenty of real dialogue to use, the official Walter Isaacson biography also has situations that could be depicted without the use of profuse verbiage. It's a device that may have to be used in the unofficial "Jobs," especially because the screenplay is credited to a virtual unknown (Matt Whiteley). We can't necessarily assume Whiteley knows how to write like Sorkin without throwing out some clunker lines.

So if both movies may differ in dialogue, how will they compare in aforementioned structure?

If the Isaacson biography is filmed faithfully, you have an overlong, bloated movie that doesn't take time to breathe in examining details closely. In Kutcher's "Jobs," the focus will primarily be on Jobs's early, post-college years, ultimately going up to the year 2000 or so. The latter may win out in structure just for slowing down and savoring how Jobs managed to get where he did.

The official portrait may have a unanimous win in one thing: The lesser resemblance to Jobs in an A-list actor. Again, the one thing we've learned about biopics is that you don't have to make the star look like the subject to turn in an Oscar-caliber performance.

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