A review of “Flash of Genius” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language

Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes

 

 

          Greg Kinnear headlines this stirring David and Goliath tale of steadfast perseverance and pride.

          Detroit, Michigan circa early 1960s. Robert Kearns (Kinnear) is burning the candle at both ends as a gifted MIT professor of electrical engineering, amateur inventor and Catholic father of (gulp) six.

          During a routine flash rainstorm Kearns hits on a great idea; intermittent windshield wipers that function much as the human eye.

          With a great deal of enthusiasm and can-do naiveté the nutty professor takes his idea to the Ford Motor Company with the proviso that he be allowed to manufacture the wipers himself.

          Eighteen months and endless stalling tactics later Ford rolls out its revolutionary Mustang, a flashy roadster with a short rear deck and, you guessed it, intermittent windshield wipers.

          Refusing to let this blatant patent infringement go without a fight Kearns digs in, determined to stand for what’s right. But being right can be an isolating experience; friendships are damaged, mental health takes a hit and Kearns’ stand-by-your-man wife (Laurel Graham) finally reaches her breaking point.

          And still Kearns won’t give up the fight. Not when his children turn their backs on him and not when he suffers a nervous breakdown. Not when his lawyer packs up his briefcase and not when Ford offers him millions to walk away.

          “Genius” is a classic biopic of grit and resolve, of championing the little people in the face of great odds and the big bad corporate machine. Which also works to its disadvantage as a much ballyhooed and overworked genre.

          Director Marc Abraham lays down a vivid portrait of fortitude backed by a glossy palette of abundant virtue and guileless period mores. Kinnear is a class act, a supremely steady talent who smoothly taps into a smorgasbord of emotions – anger, frustration, resentment and elation – with thespian cool.

          Bottom line you don’t have to work for it but there’s something exceedingly satisfying about entertainment for entertainment’s sake.