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USA 2008
Directed by
Marc Abraham
114 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Flash Of Genius

A movie about the invention of the intermittent windshield wiper hardly strikes one as particularly engaging material but Flash Of Genius, which is based on the real-life story of its inventor, engineer Dr. Bob Kearns, a David who took on the Goliath of the Ford Motor Company for stealing his idea, is surprisingly effective thanks to Kinnear’s fine performance in the lead, and, making his debut as a director, Marc Abraham’s steady, understated helming.  

The real events occurred between 1967 when Kearns originally patented his invention and 1990 when he finally got Ford in court and one of the film’s strengths is the way it uses the carefully detailed but never obtrusive production design to mark the passing of the years. The screenplay by Philip Railsback is similarly understated and never indulges in rhetorical grandstanding or heartrending bathos yet manages to make its points tellingly.

Given the film’s quite templated structure it does struggle to deal with the fact that Kearns’s wife (Lauren Graham) left him and took their six children whilst he obsessively pursued justice. It hardly gels with the image of God-fearing Christian marital devotion to which she supposedly adhered and leaves her as a very two-dimensional figure. Alan Alda makes an effective appearance as an erstwhile supportive lawyer who lets Kearns down and of course the Ford Motor Company provides its share of corporate villains.

If the playing-to-the-bleachers emotional manipulations of this kind of film makes you feel uneasy, Flash Of Genius can be recommended as a variant that delivers its message without stridency, a treatment which is perfectly appropriate to its subject.

DVD Extras: Director’s Commentary, Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary. Comes with descriptive captions for the hearing impaired.

Available from: Village Roadshow




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