After watching Bezos, the painfully low-budget and overtly hagiographic biopic of the Amazon founder's early years, I have a few questions. My first question is why is this film, based on the 2021 children's book Zero to Hero by Tashena Ebanks, a thirty-three page explainer on Bezos meant for five year olds, announced as a positive source? Why is Bezos (Armando Gutiérrez) wearing the world's worst wig?
Bezos charts Jeff's "rise" from senior vice president at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw and Company to the first book sale with his online venture Amazon.com, along the way dramatizing all of the difficult moments on the path to success. Except those difficulties include asking his wealthy parents for a loan of 300,000 dollars and… well that's about it. Typically with biopics like these, you'd see the central figure go through tortuous and agonizing episodes with their own creativity, the failing of interpersonal relationships, temptations in the form of drugs, sex or power. Bezos has none of these things, and instead favors a strangely by-the-numbers account of Jeff simply asking his coders to work harder on making a better user interface. I have no idea what this film is trying to accomplish.
Director Khoa Le's only other venture is the 2015 biopic of Walt Disney aptly and obviously titled Walt Before Disney, so it seems the filmmaker has cornered the market on free cinematic press of problematic billionaires. From top to bottom, Bezos is a dumpster fire. Amongst the movie's horrid elements is a lumbering central performance by Gutiérrez, who also serves as one of the movie's executive producers. Gutiérrez portrays Bezos like Eeyore with half a mop of hair, wheezing out uninspired dialogue like he's battling debilitating indigestion. It becomes immediately impossible to believe this version of Bezos is only thirty-one, since Gutiérrez looks like the forty-one year old he actually is, and since… zero makeup has been applied? His robotic movement inadvertently gives his Bezos a stiffness reminiscent of the real McCoy; it's an uncomfortably bad performance, but no one around him is doing any better. Alex Mitchell plays Bezos's frustrated wife MacKenzie (in an even worse wig) and proclaims her lines with the energy of someone who was just handed the lines. The strangest performance probably belongs to Marcus Lemonis as D.E. Shaw, the CNBC host in his first acting role, who shouts every line like a crazed animal or the "get off my lawn" guy and openly mocks a man for… eating a hot dog?
Perhaps my favorite bizarre moment from this leaden "movie" is Bezos's realization of what he wants to sell, which he comes to by strolling through the halls at a public library and grazing the stacks with the energy of someone who is going to have sex with a bunch of books. The entire film lacks any self-awareness because it's so eager to please its subject; this movie is essentially what would happen if you tried to make the "won't someone think of the billionaires" reply-guys into a movie. At one point, while trying to explain his business model to Shaw, Bezos just circles the word "internet." In fact, circling things is a popular motif here, as early in the film we see Bezos highlight "2300%," the growth rate of the internet in 1994, about ten times. It is distinctly possible this movie was not written by Allison Burnett and R.V. Romero, but by a Dell computer from the same year this thing takes place.
The makers of Bezos are so in love with capitalism that it genuinely and unironically asks us to cheer on the fact that Amazon is directly responsible for the monopolization of the marketplace. Several scenes mention the inevitable closure of small businesses with cringey zeal. Barnes and Noble CEO Leonard Riggio (Kevin Sorbo, in what I can't believe I'm describing as the only legitimate performance) is framed as the villain, even though Amazon literally rendered Barnes and Noble obsolete. But the strangest is a moment when Bezos's programmer Paul Davis (Sasha Andreev) asks why he isn't getting creator credit, and Jeff responds that he "never asked" and that it's too late because Paul "never understood" his own "worth." Bezos legitimately asks us to cheer on theft and greed as noble values, which, I suppose, makes sense considering the hollow suit it wants to lift up as an American folk hero.
Bezos has a running flashback sequence of little Jeff (Josh Willis) getting life lessons from his grandfather (Buzz Fleischman) while fixing up a car. He gets such banal advice like "you should have good people in your life." Perhaps the biggest crime Bezos commits in trying to lift up greed in making everything just so painfully trite. Whether or not you think Bezos is a misunderstood genius with uncommon business guile, Bezos the movie makes you walk away with only one conclusion: he's boring.