Oct 2008 02

Flash of Genius is a serious drama about the true life struggles of Bob Kearns who had to fight the major motor companies for vindication on his creation, and the results are a solid offering, even though it might be a bit of heavy material.

Bob Kearns (Greg Kinnear) is an engineering professor who was always coming up with something. For as long as he could remember he was always creating useful ways to improve things and make things work better, so one day when he noticed a problem with his windshield wipers, he sought out something to do about it. What he created was the later to be named intermittent wiper that we all know and love today and he began on the process to sell it too the major motor companies in his home town of Detroit.

Partnering with his friend Gil Privik (Dermot Mulroney) Bob sets out to produce and sell all intermittent wipers to the major car companies and live out his new found dream he has always been looking for. Unfortunately, the road does not go as planned and Ford backs out of the deal, only to find Bob’s model in use six months later on the new line up of Ford vehicles. Bob quickly falls into a tail spin as he tries to earn his due and it has an effect on his personal, work, and family life in turn.

Bob’s struggles for credit are the focus of the picture and it is a passionate fight that he ends up having to try to take all the way to court. Greg Kinnear does a fantastic job of capturing Kearns and all of his subtleties, and I imagine he nailed the way this man was. Though outside Kinnear there isn’t a lot for the rest of the cast to do, it’s all kind of Kinnear’s show. But that isn’t a horrible thing at all, as he is great, but Dermot Mulroney is able to shine in his work and Lauren Graham does a fair job as Kearns wife. The child actors also do admirable jobs as the Kearns family and Alan Alda is great as Bob’s pro bono attorney; though he is just basically a nice version of his Aviator character.

The thing that holds this film back though is the heavy mood over all the proceedings. And I understand the material is rough and a hard row, but they could have done a better job of injecting some humor here or there or do a better job of not dragging out the miserable times of this man’s life as long as they did. Thankfully, when the film hits it’s final act, it is running at its best, and does a great job of finishing strong in the end; which a lot of movies can’t really say nowadays.

In the end, Flash of Genius is a solid drama that tells a great little story of the little guy fighting for what is his. The material seems a bit stretched for a feature, but the editing and pacing mis-steps that pop up might be to blame for that. Greg Kinnear is great and deserves any and all the praise he will get for this and easily carries this film on his shoulders. If your looking for a great little untold story, and don’t need a film with a ton of pick-me ups, this is an enjoyable endeavor.



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