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Flash of Genius
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Product Description

Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 02/17/2009 Run time: 120 minutes Rating: Pg13

In the early-1990s, Greg Kinnear was just another amiable talk show host. After As Good As It Gets, however, Kinnear confirmed he could act. If Flash of Genius isn't as harrowing as the Bob Crane biopic Auto-Focus, Kinnear digs just as deep to play a man possessed, in this case taking on Bob Kearns, a Detroit physics professor who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. Supported by his wife (Lauren Graham) and best friend (Dermot Mulroney, making the most of an underwritten part), Kearns aims to align himself with a Motor City auto maker to manufacture his device. Ford expresses interest, so Kearns secures a warehouse, but it all falls apart when they abruptly pull the plug. Then he finds out that they've added automatic wipers to their latest line. Though he patented his invention, the company denies they're using his blueprint, so Kearns takes them to court, a process that drags on for three decades. Meanwhile, his support system starts to collapse as Kearns loses interest in everything except the credit he feels he deserves. If the film succumbs to some of the pitfalls of the genre, i.e. the win-lose-win structure, producer-turned-director Marc Abraham never paint Kearns as too much of a hero. Through the inventor's brilliance, the world's streets are safer, but his tenacity also drove away some of those he held most dear. Hence, Flash of Genius serves as an inspirational story, a cautionary tale, and the perfect opportunity for Kinnear to make a potentially off-putting character sympathetic. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Stills from Flash of Genius (Click for larger image)

Customer Reviews:

  • Outstanding and brilliant
    This movie was awesome! Greg Kinnear brilliantly portray Dr. Kearns. Makes me want to research this more.
    You can take on big business and win!...more info
  • Worth fighting for
    Sometimes it's worth fighting in court for years when you've been shafted and someone needs to be held accountable for it, especially if that someone is a big corporation or two. Dr. Kearns pays a high price for the fight on a personal level, with a marital separation and some angry kids left in the wake of it. But he keeps at it anyway so the corporations won't be able to do the same thing to someone else.

    The likeable Greg Kinnear plays the determined and meticulous Kearns sympathetically, with support from Lauren Graham as his lovely but frustrated wife.
    ...more info
  • Inspiration Comes to Those Who Blink
    I don't know how accurately "Flash of Genius" portrays the real Robert Kearns. If he was anything like Greg Kinnear's representation, he may be one of the most relatable people I know of. In the film, Kearns is passionate, determined, stubborn, and cursed with a one-track mind. He was a college engineering professor and an independent inventor with an absolute sense of right and wrong, and because the Ford Motor Company wrongs him, he puts all his energy into making it right. We may not all be inventors, but I think it's safe to say that most of us understand why he does what he does, and that's because we've all been passionate about something. This isn't to say that we can completely side with him; as admirable as his intentions are, he ends up neglecting his wife, his children, and his job, and he unfairly drags his family through a twelve-year legal nightmare. One wonder whether or not the journey was worth it.

    The Kearns character is the lifeblood of "Flash of Genius." He holds everything together, and that's because the filmmakers develop him far more than any other character. This was done on purpose, I suspect. This is his dream, his effort, his obsession--everyone else is either along for the ride or left standing at the curb. The film's structure is just as narrow-minded as Kearns is, which will be problematic if you want a story that develops all of its characters. I wasn't bothered by it, and that's because I wanted to see things from his perspective. I wanted to understand why he believed so strongly when others didn't. I wanted to be convinced that he was doing the right thing by fighting a gigantic corporation that ripped off his windshield wiper design. I'm not too sure about that last one; he refuses each and every offer to settle, even when handsome sums of money are involved. The principle is to never give in, and while it's a good principle, it's also not very helpful for a family's financial security.

    Where the film falters is in matters of time passage. While the occasional, "Four years later," is displayed, there are still far too many gaps. Kearns' children grow up before our eyes, and his hair seems to get grayer with every passing scene. I'm not entirely sure what year the story begins in. I can only go by actual history, which tells us that Kearns first came up with the idea of the intermittent windshield wiper in 1963, as he and his family were driving on a misty night in Detroit, Michigan. In the film, Kearns is bothered by the fact that his car's wipers can only move at a set speed. He then remembers his honeymoon night ten years earlier, in which a champagne cork hit him in the eye; with a little engineering, windshield wipers just might be able to operate in much the same way as an eyelid, which blinks at an intermittent rate. He proceeds to build a prototype in his basement.

    In 1967, Kearns and his business partner, Gil Privick (Dermot Mulroney), patent the new wiper system. They then show the device to the Ford Motor Company, who seem genuinely interested, if a little too curious; they want to know how the device works, but Kearns won't tell them, not until a deal can be worked out. A Ford exec (Mitch Pileggi) appears intrigued on the surface, but we suspect that underneath, he cares nothing for Kearns. He just wants the device, and true to form, he makes it so that the company backs out of the deal and installs Kearns' wiper system in all the newest car models. It's a reliable but nonetheless unoriginal method for developing a movie villain. This isn't to say that such people don't exist in real life; I'm well aware that major corporations--and the people who run them--have been known to be greedy and corrupt. But since we're talking about a movie here, it might have been better if the filmmakers had taken a different approach.

    Kearns carries his anger and resentment all the way to 1982, when, after years of fighting uphill legal battles, he was finally able to sue the Ford Motor Company. Because his relationship with his attorney (Alan Alda) had soured, Kearns decided to represent himself. Some will see this movie and determine that Kearns gave up too much to get that far. It takes thirteen years to see the process through, and at a certain point, his wife, Phyllis (Lauren Graham), and their children begin to feel abandoned. On top of that, Kearns is continuously offered large cash settlements in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. Because they refuse to admit any wrongdoing, Kearns always turns their offers down.

    On the other hand, some audiences will completely side with Kearns, believing that the principle is more important than the money. I have to admit that I'm on the fence. Is it worth it to keep fighting a powerful corporation, even when you know you're right? Is it worth it to stand up for what you believe in while your loved ones are left in the sidelines? What makes "Flash of Genius" work so well is the fact that we're made to see everything from a very single-minded perspective, which in turn allows us to understand the main character. I'm surprised it worked, considering the fact that stories told from multiple perspectives are more complex, more thought provoking, and more compelling. We're immersed in one man's quest for justice, and we see him through to the end. I won't reveal what happens, even if you know everything about case. But rest assured, it ends appropriately, and it reminds us that, with determination, even insignificant people can make a big difference....more info
  • Integrity is Job 1
    Driving in a rainstorm with his family, engineering prof Dennis Kearns (Greg Kinnear) cannot seem to get the car wipers to work right. He turns them on, the windshield's clear. Then, he turns them off, the rain's obscured his vision. It occurs to him, why not make a wiper that would 'blink' like your eyes do to clear tears away?

    He proceeds to do just that. Of course, the automakers are wowed by the idea. They've had their best minds working on what they call 'intermittent windshield wipers' for quite some time. Ford Motor Company is willing to buy the wiper invention for their new Mustang and Kearns believes he's set until Ford shuts him out and uses his invention, anyway.

    In the end, Kearns has to represent himself in court initially against Ford in what everyone tells him is futile, but somehow he manages to win. The film tells the story of the invention, struggle and eventual lawsuit. Kinnear does a stellar job recreating the taciturn, yet driven professor who only wants credit for his own work.

    Rebecca Kyle, May 2009...more info
  • Inspirational true story
    Despite my aversion to trite David-and-Goliath stories that end with a courtroom battle, I was drawn to the idea of an extraordinary tale behind an ordinary object (in this case, the intermittent windshield wiper). In the film, there is a line to the effect of "A new invention doesn't have to consist of new parts. It just has to arrange those parts into a new pattern." Under that definition, I wouldn't consider this movie a new invention, but it's certainly an old invention done very well. Greg Kinnear is captivating in his first leading dramatic role (that I can think of, at least). After "The Matador" and "Little Miss Sunshine," he's quickly becoming one of the great "everyman" actors.

    I admire how the film doesn't shy away from the fact that Kearns's obsession cost him his family, his mind, and a good chunk of his life. What he did was undoubtedly courageous, but the movie doesn't really decide whether it was right or wrong. Is integrity and truth more important than family? Should you stand up for yourself even if it means pushing away the ones you love? I don't know the answers. It's this thought-provoking dilemma that sets the film slightly apart from others of its type.

    Bottom line: Unoriginal and formulaic, but well-made, well-acted, and even a little provocative.

    Richard Yee, author of Deliveries: A Collection...more info