If there is one empirical factor in determining if a movie is actually a good movie it is this: how many times did I look at my watch. If you told me I was about to sit through two hours about the lawsuit over who actually invented the intermittent windshield wiper I’d have probably asked you to wake me up when it was over.Â But this is why we watch movies in order to review them.
Flash of Genius staring Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, As Good As It Gets) as Dr. Bob Kearns is the true story of the man who was inspired to build a better windshield wiper. Â You know, those things you take for granted when it starts raining, and you adjust for the rate at which precipitation falls.Â After seeing this movie you will never use them again without understanding what it took for them to be invented, and the fallout from that invention.
Kearns, an engineering professor, was on his way home from church one Sunday and notices that a windshield wiper frequency rarely matches the rate at which rain falls. After spending a few nights working in his garage away from his lovely wife Phyllis (Lauren Graham: Evan Almighty, Gilmore Girls) he has a breakthrough and builds the first prototype.
Bob then takes the prototype to a friend in the auto industry, Wade Previck (London Angeles), who assures him that Ford will pay handsomely for this product. Â Â After meeting with Ford Kearns and Previck strike a deal that would leave Kearns as the manufacturer and supplier to Ford, and eventually the other Detroit auto companies.
Eventually, though, Ford acquires the invention and steals the idea installing intermittent wipers on the next year’s line of cars without paying Kearns royalties or giving him credit.
Kearns then legally harasses Ford, not for money, but for the credit he is due for inventing this taken-for-granted, yet wholly useful product. Â In the process he finds himself alienating his friends, family and wife.Â It is this point that you wish he would just give it up and try to get on with his life, as every other character in the film advises.Â However, had he done that we would not have had a chance to watch the amazing turnaround and retribution of the third act.
Kinnear’s performance is underplayed for two third’s of the film, but makes up for it in the end and by a solid supporting cast who carries him early on in the movie. Lauren Graham is the films strongest actor, and keep an eye on London Angeles to do great things on screen down the road.
As I said earlier, I didn’t look at my watch once.Â Â Director Marc Abraham achieves this by staying utterly focused on the story at hand, which is one man’s struggle to receive social justice against all odds.Â Abraham never takes his eye off the ball by going into the complexity of the family drama, as one would be tempted to do (especially with Graham’s exceptional performance), thus elongating the movie and increasing the audience watch checking variable. Â The result of which is a concise and satisfying film, if not an inspirational one as well.