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Review: Flash of Genius

Flash of Genius
10.07.2008
8 10

Plot: In this true story, Greg Kinnear plays Bob Kearns, a college professor who, in the sixties, came up with the intermittent wind shield wiper. He took his invention to Ford Motors and the company- rather than allow him to manufacture the product himself, supposedly stole his patent. Kearns spent the next twenty years in & out of court trying to get the company to admit they stole his design.

Review: It’s a real shame that FLASH OF GENIUS died such a horrible death at the box office this weekend, as this real life David & Goliath story is one of the more engrossing films I’ve seen lately.

Bob Kearns’ story truly is stranger than fiction. Here’s a nice family man who likes to occasionally tinker around with inventions in his basement- and one day he comes up with something extraordinary- the intermittent windshield wiper. Nowadays, this product is a standard feature in even the crappiest cars, but forty years ago- it seemed like science fiction. Try as they might, big time automakers could not figure out how to make this simple idea work.


When Kearns presented his idea to Ford, the corporate jackals in charge of the company at the time outright stole his idea- and promptly ruined his life. Within a few years of having his patent stolen, Kearns lost everything- his job, family, and eventually even his sanity. Somehow he was able to pull himself back together and take on the suits that ruined him- and it’s truly an inspiring tale.

Despite the poignancy of Kearns’ story- it would have been very easy to have made FLASH OF GENIUS into an unbearably schmaltzy tale a- la PATCH ADAMS. Thankfully, first time director Marc Abraham (who I should note is a veteran producer, and actually produced CHILDREN OF MEN- which I think qualifies him for sainthood) wisely take a very simple, almost documentary like approach to the material. In many ways, the film is actually a lot like an HBO film- which I should add is a compliment and not a criticism. Like their excellent docudramas, the story is filmed in a straight forward manner, and the proceedings are not overly fictionalized.

Despite the expertise behind the camera, the real MVP is the film has to be Greg Kinnear, who gives a career best performance as Kearns. While I’ve always liked Kinnear, I must admit to occasionally finding him a little on the bland side- but he really knocked this one out of the park. A lot of actors probably would have overplayed the role, particularly in the climatic court-room scenes where Kearns defends himself against a bunch of high priced corporate lawyers. Kinnear never lets you forget that he’s playing a fairly fragile and timid guy, and while it’s probably too low key to ever get the award recognition it deserves- it’s some really fine work.


The supporting cast is also top notch- with GILMORE GIRLS’ Lauren Graham rebounding nicely from EVAN ALLMIGHTY as Kearns put- upon wife. I also really liked Alan Alda in a very un-Hawkeye Pierce-like role as a slimy attorney who briefly takes on Kearns’ case.

While it will probably be out of theaters fairly soon, hopefully FLASH OF GENIUS will catch on when it hits DVD/ cable, as it really deserves to be seen. If you want o see something with a little more substance than BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA- check it out. Just do it soon.

Grade: 8/10

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Source: JoBlo.com

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