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|Flash of Genius|
dir Marc Abraham
scr Philip Railsback
with Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda, Jake Abel, Tatiana Maslany, Ashton Doudelet, Mitch Pileggi, Tim Kelleher, Sergio Di Zio, Daniel Roebuck, Aaron Abrams
release US 3.Oct.08; UK 20.Mar.09
08/US Universal 1h59
His day in court: Abel and Kinnear
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This true story is compelling enough to keep us gripped, even though the film is never much more than a TV movie. And a draggy tone and awkward structure slightly undermine Kinnear's fine central performance.
In 1960s Detroit, Bob Kearns (Kinnear) is an obsessive professor who constantly comes up with clever inventions. His wife (Graham) and six kids are very much part of his work, and when he figures out how to make a windscreen wiper pause, he approaches the car industry with his friend Gil (Mulroney). In the middle of negotiations, Ford pulls out and then quickly introduces its own intermittent wiper. Kearns sees his life's work being stolen from him, and spends the next 12 years trying to take Ford to court.
This is a terrific story of a little guy who takes on one of the world's biggest corporations. While we never doubt how it will turn out, the screenwriter at least centres on real values like honour and integrity, rather than winning a massive settlement. Kinnear is excellent, drawing us into the life of this gentle genius and his lively and often very funny family (also very well-played). We really feel his mind starting to slip into obsession as he pursues justice against all advice. And we know that Ford has met its match: this is a man who can't be bought.
So it's a shame that the screenplay gets bogged down trying to wrangle the true story into several Hollywood formulae. The plot's timeline is also muddled, all of which makes the film feel unfocussed and long. It also doesn't really help that Abraham's direction is so straightforward. It's efficient and clean, but he never cranks up the energy or offers any subtext. Humour and emotion help keep us engaged, and the period is recreated with a lot of wit.
It's also great to see a film that actually grapples with tricky ethical questions. What makes someone successful? Is it brains? Talent? Timing? Does the legal system offer justice, or does it allow the wealthy to get away with anything by paying someone to keep quiet? And how long would you hold on to your principles against huge opposition?
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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