More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 31.58%
Pretty Bad: 31.58%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 1 rating

Latest Reviews

Whistlers, The by Jay Seaver

Fly Me to the Saitama by Jay Seaver

Fantastic Fungi by Jay Seaver

Ode to Nothing by Jay Seaver

Dance with Me by Jay Seaver

Purity of Vengeance (Journal 64), The by Jay Seaver

Cencoroll Connect by Jay Seaver

8 by Jay Seaver

Incredible Shrinking Wknd, The by Jay Seaver

Bloodshot by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Flash of Genius
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Lybarger

"Easily the most breathtaking windshield wiper movie ever!"
4 stars

All kidding aside, freshman director and veteran producer Marc Abraham’s 'Flash of Genius' works because it’s less about a car appliance and more about the people who made it possible. There’s enough betrayal, reversal of fortune, heartbreak and triumph to fill ten soap operas. Unlike many Hollywood dramas that claim to be fact based, it’s both consistently engaging and reasonably close to the facts.

The late Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear) may not be as familiar as Alexander Graham Bell or Thomas Edison, but we should be grateful to him every time we drive or even cross the street. In the early 60s, he designed a windshield wiper that worked intermittently.

This special rhythm allowed drivers to more easily adjust the wipers to varying levels of rain. In addition, his system worked more liked the human eye, which blinks every few seconds automatically. As a result, drivers could see more clearly and avoid accidents more easily.

The reason his name is not better known is that Kearns offered to manufacture the wipers himself for Ford, while the auto giant reportedly appropriated his design without giving him credit or royalties.

To be fair, Ford had a plan for an intermittent wiper, but it was impractical to include in their vehicles because it required nearly 20 moving parts, any of which could quickly render the system potentially dysfunctional. Kearns’ design had only one.

It’s a safe bet that “Flash of Genius,” which gained its title from an earlier Supreme Court that Kearns used as the cornerstone of his case, wouldn’t have been made if Kearns had not ably defended his rights.

Nonetheless, the film works because screenwriter Philip Railsback and Abraham never shy away from revealing how difficult Kearns’ legal battle was nor how it drove him to madness.

Despite help from an ace attorney (Alan Alda, as his slickest), Kearns refused to accept lucrative settlements from Ford because the company never admitted fault. Kearns’ stubbornness strained his relationship with his wife (Lauren Graham), who wondered if her husband’s pride mattered more than their family’s fragile monetary situation. His quest even endangers his relationship with his business partner and best friend (Dermot Mulroney).

The film is obviously on Kearns’ side, but it’s more interesting than most David and Goliath stories because it makes the costs of failure tangible and frightening. It also raises an interesting point by asking of Kearns was really noble by refusing to take Ford’s money and running.

After seeing the film, I’d encourage viewers to read John Seabrook’s article at It’s more nuanced than the film, but it does indicated that Kearns’ struggle was as difficult as it was unlikely.

Abraham doesn’t do anything flashy here, and that works in the film’s favor. The story becomes easier to believe because there’s a minimum of histrionics. While it might seem odd that Kearns would serve as his own counsel in the final hearings, it did happen. Thankfully, Abraham trusts us to realize how dramatic the situation really is.

The film rests easily on Kinnear’s narrow but sturdy shoulders. Even if he didn’t wear old age makeup, he effortlessly switches from enthusiastic inventor to bitterly determined agitator. Kinnear plays a man who is as easily torn within himself. The film derives its tension from whether he can complete his Quixotic endeavor or wind up being destroyed by his own arrogance.

Considering his modest origins on cable comedy, Kinnear erases any doubts viewers might have about his talents the way Kearns’ wipers remove the rain.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/03/08 13:53:38
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  03-Oct-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2009


  DVD: 17-Feb-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Marc Abraham

Written by
  Philip Railsback
  Scott Frank
  Marc Abraham

  Greg Kinnear
  Lauren Graham
  Dermot Mulroney
  Alan Alda

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast