Monday, 21 September 2020
Flash of Genius
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Thursday, 09 October 2008 00:00

ThumbnailFlash of Genius, the latest Oscar bait to hit the theatres, isn’t a bad film but could use a bit of the lightning bolt inspiration the title implies. I guess it’s a little hard to get excited when the movie you’re making is about windshield wipers, but come on people! The movie trailer had me hoping for a little more than a reheated Erin Brockovich without the charm.

Flash of Genius tells the story of Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), an engineering professor who was struck with a million-dollar idea. He invented the “Blinking Eye” windshield wiper, best known to us now as intermittent wipers. Kearns had perfected in his own garage what all the auto manufacturers had been trying for months to create! Ford Motor Company quickly wooed him for the idea, but had no interest in working with him directly. After getting what they wanted they ceased contact and left him high and dry without a penny to show for it.

In the years that followed Kearns became increasingly obsessed with gaining recognition for his invention. It became all encompassing and eventually he decided to sue Ford, representing himself in court when it was apparent that no lawyer shared his black and white view of justice. Despite being offered multi-million dollar buyouts, Kearns stood his ground for “the little guy” to gain the recognition he deserved.

I didn’t feel much sympathy for this character that wanted good things for his family but allowed his pride to drive them away. His story became a movie, so I guess there’s no surprise in me telling you that he eventually wins, but at what cost? He was in a self-righteous fog while his kids were growing up and his wife was moving out. This feel good story has a bitter taste.

There are some good scenes and I can’t complain about the acting, but with a dry script and uninspired cinematography even a likeable, talented guy like Greg Kinnear can’t save the film from dreariness. Lauren Graham does a nice job playing Kearn’s wife, and Alan Alda has the one really juicy supporting role as a straight shooting lawyer. But even great performers can’t bring to life a bland script that is punctuated only by the passing of time noted at the bottom of the screen. “Three months later,” “4 years later”… how about “2 hours later” I’m sitting here staring at the bottom of my popcorn bag waiting for this movie to end?

ThumbnailThe concept of intermittent wipers isn’t something we grace with even a moments thought in today’s society. It seems like such a simple thing in our technologically over-saturated lives. This movie serves to remind us that at one time even the simple things weren’t so simple and that all of our modern gadgetry got a start somewhere. But is that small reminder enough to propel a feature length film about windshield wipers? Unfortunately no.

Flash of Genius had the makings of a great film, but turned out to be just another failed invention.