Flash of Genius
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on October 8, 2008
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.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2008
This is absolutely the best movie I have seen, so far, this year! I sincerely hope Flash of Genius gets a few Academy Awards! But one thing is for certain! People will be watching this powerful film a 100 years from now! It's that good!

When I left the theater and reached the safety of my car, I sobbed uncontrollably! Why? The reason is simple! I can identify with what Dr. Kearns went through, having had a somewhat similar gut-wrenching experience as a whistleblower.

I really don't think most people can begin to understand what it is like to stand up for one's honor and to confront a powerful institution, such as a huge transnational corporation, (or in my case a government agency) - no matter what the personal cost.

Making matters even more difficult is that many politicians with a conservative bent love to turn the issue of litigation awards into a political football! Oh, how rich and powerful institutions are the "victims" of shady lawyers and questionable plaintiffs, they cry! But what these unethical politicians don't tell you is the mind-boggling amount of work that goes into preparing your case before you can even find a lawyer willing to take it! Or, that no matter how serious the injury, there's no guarantee your case will ever see the light of day!

This true story is also about love & family! Dr. Kearns is so fortunate to have such wonderful children. It's amazing how much can be accomplished when a human being gets emotional and logistical support from those he loves! Ultimately, I think that's the bottom line, here!

See: Patent Law Essentials: A Concise Guide Second Edition, and A Civil Action/The Insider
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2009
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
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2009
FLASH OF GENIUS is a based-on-fact film that presents one more instance of a big company stealing from a lone inventor. Perhaps you already know how Edwin Howard Armstrong, the inventor of FM radio, was ripped off? Or Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television?

Usually big companies are able to get away with their thefts. Their executives and employees are often willing to lie, they can afford lawyers who can tie cases up in court for decades, and sometimes they can even buy congressional support. Remember what disastrous things happened to Preston Tucker in Francis Ford Coppola's TUCKER: THE MAN AND THE DREAM starring Jeff Bridges?

In this film, in an unusual turn of events, the little guy wins. Bob Kearns (played earnestly by Greg Kinnear) is a college physics professor who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, demonstrated it to Ford Motors (who agreed to let him supply his new wiper to them)--and then found they were manufacturing intermittent wipers for themselves using his design.

After years of frustration, heartbreak, and battles with Ford Motors, Kearns earns a heartwarming victory in court--but at great cost to himself and to his family. This is a film that will simultaneously fill you with admiration for the little guy--and disgust for the unethical behavior of money-hungry business executives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2009
If you build it, they will steal it. No "Field of Dreams" for Dr. Bob Kearns. Most people are unfamiliar with the case involving the "intermittent wiper" or may have heard of the settlement when it took place. Some law students may be familiar if their professor discussed this one along with the mandatory McDonald's hot coffee. Suffice it to say this is an interesting story if you like to see David taking on the giant. Here Ford is the giant and Dr. Kearns plays David. Kearns patented the first "working" intermittent wiper, but Ford thought they could claim they made it after seeing his working model because they built all the parts. This is as much or more about the impact the drawn out case has on Kearn's family as anything. Sometimes getting justice does not mean getting a happy ending. Great drama. Good quality DVD with good replayability. If you enjoyed this catch "Tucker".

CA Luster
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2009
Greg Kinear gives a great performance in this overlooked yet uplifting indie gem that focuses on a small slice of American history with a healthy dose of legal drama thrown in for good measure. This film is based on the true story of professor and inventor Bob Kearns who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. The story focuses on how Ford Motor Co. stole Kearns' invention, the lawsuit he brought against them, and the toll the 12 year ordeal took on him and his family. This movie reminds us that the "American Dream" is not something easily achieved or oftentimes even earned, but rather something that must be fought for--and that fight requires tenacity and sacrifice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2009
I have just watched this informative movie regarding Prof Kearns battle for recognition of his invention. I found it interesting that the reviewer of the movie called him a physics professor.........wrong. He was an engineering professor. As usual, engineers are confused with scientists and there is a difference. As for the movie, it is a sad but true tale that taking an auto company to court (or any other industrial or governmental giant for that matter) is a long, frustrating and often unsuccessful event. So credit must be given to Dr Kearns for sticking to his principles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2009
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2010
Yes, this is about a windshield wiper, specifically, the inventor's quest to get paid by Ford for it, instead of ripped off. You'd think it could be lame. But it's actually pretty good. Along the way, he goes a little nuts. Surprise, surprise! Persistence pays off. Did you really think it would not? Acting, script and soundtrack are all first-rate. Give this sleeper a shot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2009
Flash of Genius was such a great movie! It's a David and Goliath type story based on truth. Unfortunately, it didn't do as well at the box office because of it's lack of action, violence, etc., but that's exactly why I enjoyed it so much. The transaction was great as well.
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