Flash of Genius

As Ralph Nader learned, it’s tough to make car-safety stimulating. Consider engineering professor and basement inventor Bob Kearns, who, after being blinded in his left eye in a honeymoon champagne cork fiasco, was inspired to invent the intermittent windshield wiper. Played here by Greg Kinnear – today’s go-to actor for men in cheap suits – Kearns was a dreamer who became a kicked dog. When he smiles during the early scenes of Marc Abraham’s biopic, we’re already dreading what we know will come next: His idea is stolen by Ford and Chrysler, his patents are trashed, and his quest to get the big guys to acknowledge his brilliance costs him his family, job, 26 years, and 10 million in legal fees (even though he represented himself). Philip Railsback’s script, based on a New Yorker article by John Seabrook, follows the formula – we can guess every plot point, but are left guessing about Kearns himself, who, as the years drag on, progresses from motivational to monomaniacal. When wife Phyllis (Lauren Graham) leaves, taking their brood of six, the truth of Kearns’s life registers as little more than a narrative obligation. Still, corporate conspiracists (myself included) have a high tolerance for films that take potshots at The Man, even if like this, it’s less a sock to the jaw than a fumbled graze.

Click here for Flash of Genius in LA CityBeat

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