.

Flash of Genius

Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda

Directed by Marc Abraham
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
October 16, 2008

For a while, it looked like Greg Kinnear showed his acting chops best with supporting roles in the likes of As Good as It Gets, Little Miss Sunshine and the current Ghost Town. Well, hang on. Kinnear takes the star spot in Flash of Genius and rides it to glory. He plays Robert Kearns, the Detroit professor, inventor and father of six who came up with the idea for the intermittent windshield wiper during the 1960s. Go ahead, groan. I felt the same way. A night reading patent law seems more exciting. But Kinnear takes this true story — John Seabrook's 1993 New Yorker article formed the basis of the script, by Philip Railsback — and runs with it. Kearns had his "flash of genius" when a champagne cork popped his eye on his honeymoon with wife Phyllis (Lauren Graham). Why couldn't a windshield wiper work like his blinking eye? Kearns got help from his friend Gil Previck (an excellent Dermot Mulroney) to build a prototype, get a patent and take it to the Ford Motor Company. Years later, Ford claimed the invention as its own — no credit or money to Kearns. Years of lawsuits ensued. One attorney, Gregory Lawson (a terrific Alan Alda), advised Kearns to settle. But Kearns wanted what Ford was unwilling to give: credit for the invention. The gauntlet was tossed. Kearns would represent himself in court, spending years in research, to the exclusion of his children and the wife who left him, to restore his good name in court. It's a David-and-Goliath tale that recalls Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Francis Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream. A fresh take would have helped. But Marc Abraham, in his directing debut, proceeds with a timid TV approach. Luckily, Kinnear ignores the "caution" signs. Kearns wasn't a movie hero. His halting courtroom delivery lacked Hollywood histrionics. Kinnear plays him with blunt honesty, sagging under the weight of stress but maintaining a bulldog tenacity that would win the day. Was the battle worth it? Kearns' conflict is readable in Kinnear's every word and gesture. His performance is worth cheering.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com