FLASH OF GENIUS
Dr Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear) teaches engineering at University in Detroit in the 60s, but his real love is his work as an inventor. He lives with his supportive wife Phyllis (Lauren Graham) and six kids, all are doing their best to live out the American Dream. When Bob invents the intermittent windscreen wiper, the Kearns family thinks that this is their chance at success. Working with family friend Gil Previck (Dermot Mulroney), Bob develops the product and takes it to Ford Motor Company. They show interest but at the last minute decide against a commitment. Bob is devastated when Ford then launches the product without giving him credit. He turns to attorney Gregory Lawson (Alan Alda) to help him fight the seemingly impossible battle - and everything seems to go against him.
Review by Louise Keller:
Ethics is at the heart of this David and Goliath story based on fact, in which Greg Kinnear's Professor Kearns puts everything on the line as he goes to battle with an automotive giant. To Kearns, it is a matter of principle when the Ford Motor Company steals the patent for his 'Blinking Eye' windscreen wiper invention. Based on John Seabrook's 1993 article published in The New Yorker, this is a powerful story with a resonant emotional punch, but the storytelling is long winded with an emphasis on detail for detail's sake. This probably comes as a result of director Marc Abraham's 9 year collaboration with the real-life Kearns family whose wish to document events may have worked against the film's dramatic arc. Nonetheless, this drama that begins at home in a relaxed basement workshop and ends in a tense courtroom has plenty of merit and is genuinely interesting as we learn about the origins of an everyday car appliance we all take for granted.
It is raining as Bob is drives his wife Phyllis (Lauren Graham) and six young children home from church. It is on this Sunday that the final piece of the puzzle falls into place: how to fine tune his invention of a windscreen wiper that caters for rain with levels of different intensity. The film's early scenes reinforce the close relationship enjoyed by the Kearns family and there's something endearing about a father affectionately calling his young family 'The Board of Directors of The Kearns Corporation'. The all important introduction to the executives at Ford is well handled so we clearly understand (and empathise) how Bob gets the short shrift. While some family-related details are overdone, others like how Bob survives financially when he gives up his day job and succumbs to his paranoia and obsession, leaves us wanting.
Apart from a distracting hair-piece, Kinnear perfectly embodies the idealistic inventor, whose 'flash of genius' (the Supreme Court ruling for a creation to qualify as an invention) came on his wedding night and involved a bottle of champagne and an accident which gave him reason for a life-long obsession with the human eye. Graham is warm and lovely as Bob's serene wife and Dermot Mulroney is solid as the friend who thinks 'it's just a windscreen wiper,' when to Bob, it represents the Mona Lisa. The interesting thing in the battle between this Everyman and the Corporation is that for both, reputation is more important than money. Their notion of ethics however, is as different as the chilling example the professor gives his students of two very different engineering inventions: the heart valve and the gas chamber.
Email this article
FLASH OF GENIUS (PG)
CAST: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda
PRODUCER: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Michael Lieber
DIRECTOR: Marc Abraham
SCRIPT: Philip Railsback (based on article by Seabrook)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dante Spinotti
EDITOR: Jill Savitt
MUSIC: Aaron Zigman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 26, 2009
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.