Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Flash of Genius

posted by Nell Minow
B
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Profanity:Brief strong language
Nudity/Sex:Mild sexual references
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking and smoking
Violence/Scariness:Reference to accidental injury, tense family confrontations
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:October 3, 2008
DVD Release Date:February 17, 2009

Americans do love our underdog stories and this one has the ingredients. There’s a David — an engineering professor named Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), who had a “flash of genius” and invented a gadget that all the geniuses in Detroit had been trying to figure out — an intermittent windshield-wiper to provide better clarity of vision when driving in the rain. Jackpot, right? No, there’s also a Goliath, and no giant is bigger and no overdog is overdoggier than the Detroit auto industry, circa 1960’s. And it really happened. Kearns sued Ford Motor Company for stealing his idea and pursued them for decades, representing himself in court. When they offered him millions of dollars but refused to give him credit for the invention, he turned them down. Integrity and pride, those are important elements of the underdog story, too.

Director Mark Abraham gives the film a gritty authenticity, evoking the era without overdoing it. And he gives the story its grittiness, too, showing us the price Kearns and his family pay for his dedication and stubbornness. Lauren Graham is a pleasure as Kearns’ wife. No one on screen today does a better job of portraying an intelligent, warm, sexiness. Kinnear shows us Kearns’ honesty, stubbornness, pride, and vulnerability. The courtroom scenes are exceptionally well done.

If there’s a fine line between genius and insanity, there’s an even finer one between genius and obsession. This film is a thoughtful, sympathetic, but clear-eyed portrayal of what Kearns gained but also what he lost.



  • Lola

    As a major Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham fan, I am extremely excited to see this movie. It seems like it will have more substance and depth than the cliche underdog stories that have flooded the theaters. Do you think that Flash of Genius has any potential for winning awards? I hope so- I’ve been waiting for Graham to get recognition since her Gilmore Girls days.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Lola! I think this is a quiet performance that will be under the awards radar — awards tend to go to over the top portrayals of the disabled or criminals or people who at least get to completely lose it on screen. But I am also a Gilmore fan, I agree with you that Graham is one of the best, and I hope some day she gets a starring role that will let her show all that she can do.

  • Gary

    You have an error of fact in your review. Dr. Kearns sued Ford Motor Company not General Motors.
    I place a great deal of trust in your reviews. An error of this nature brings into question how closely you watched the original movie. Ford Motor Company was mentioned frequently in the course of the movie and was a major subject of the movie, General Motors was mentioned hardly at all, if ever. To allow an error like this to continue unacknowledged might bring into question whether you, or the website that sponsors you, are pursuing a bias.
    Please, check the facts your reviews more closely prior to publishing them. If there is an error that makes it through the editing process, the review should be later amended to acknowledge the error.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you, Gary! I am so grateful to you and will correct the mistake immediately. I am lucky to have readers who point out my errors and have a standing offer of a copy of my book to anyone who finds ten. So you only have nine to go! Many thanks again and best wishes.
    The real-life Kearns sued all of the auto companies, including Chrysler, GM, and Mercedes. But the film focuses on his successful suit against Ford.

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