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Based on the true story of college professor and part-time inventor Robert Kearns' long battle with the U.S. automobile industry, Flash of Genius tells the tale of one man whose fight to receive recognition for his ingenuity would come at a heavy price. But this determined engineer refused to be silenced, and he took on the corporate titans in a battle that nobody thought he could win. The Kearns were a typical 1960s Detroit family, trying to live their version of the American Dream. Local university professor Bob married teacher Phyllis and, by their mid-thirties, had six kids who brought them a hectic but satisfying Midwestern existence. When Bob invents a device that would eventually be used by every car in the world, the Kearns think they have struck gold. But their aspirations are dashed after the auto giants who embraced Bob's creation unceremoniously shunned the man who invented it. Ignored, threatened and then buried in years of litigation, Bob is haunted by what was done to ... Written by
Kearns' real reason for consistently rejecting the escalating out-of-court settlements offered by Ford is significantly underplayed in the movie. His primary motive was not a public apology, but rather to be given the exclusive manufacturing rights. See more »
When the invention is to be demonstrated to Ford, Kearns gets under the dash then shows a modern (blade type) fuse and says "It's just a fuse" - but the modern fuses were not in use in the 1960s. See more »
Whatever happened to this little thing called justice we talked about?
This is justice, Bob. This is how justice is dispensed in this country - with checkbooks. There are no brass bands, you know, there are no ticker tape parades, the mayor doesn't give you the key to the city and call you a hero. You get a check, and that check makes the lives of you and your family a little easier... a little more pleasant. It's that simple.
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Today there are over 145 million automobiles on the road with the Intermittent Windshield Wiper. See more »
Praise to the Lord, The Almighty, The King of Creation
Performed by Marlowe Brass Ensemble and St. George's Chapel Choir, Windsor
Courtesy of Naxos, by arrangement with Source/Q See more »
It was great to see Greg Kinnear in another flawless performance; here as Dr. Bob Kearns, inventor and professor. To me, I think of Mr. Kinnear as sort of the cocker spaniel of American actors. Perfectly companionable for just about everyone. He just feels right in so many roles it's hard to imagine anyone else having done them. This is another instance of his having added immeasurably to what may have otherwise been a more uninteresting character. After all, it's hard to imagine anyone making an engineer or professor seem interesting; but in this outing Kinnear certainly accomplishes that.
Adding her own note of quiet grace and perfect screen presence, Lauren Graham as Phyllis Kearns gives her character both charm and great heart, not to mention that she looks better in a plain white nightgown that just about anyone I've seen... well, except for my wife, of course.
There are other great performances here too, like Mitch Pileggi as the bad guy from any corporation in America, Tim Kelleher as his greasier side-kick and Dermot Mulroney as a slightly smarmy friend of Kearnes'. Likewise the hoard of young actors playing the Kearns children added a perfect familial note to the vehicle.
But, more than any of these fine people, the focal point here was the story as it always is in these social consciousness melodramas. Yes, Virginia. The wheels of American industry is greased with the bones of the cheated and betrayed genius of America. That is so universally true it's a well known sub-plot to all of America's engineers and manufacturers. What is also well known is what happens when they try to find justice, let alone an iota of truth; which is so accurately and skillfully portrayed in this film.
Speaking as an engineer who has worked in American industry for over 40 years, I can say that I have seen this more times than I can count. It goes on every day right here under your noses, America, and no one ever does a thing to change the way America fails to protect her fragile genius. That is deliberately so. That is so because the laws America uses to define how these things are handled are made by lawyers, for lawyers. It would cease to be profitable if the laws were crafted to actually protect it's most precious resource - it's creative people. But it's not; the laws are instead crafted to provide fat and frequent paychecks to every leach that slithers through the "halls of justice".
Just as Kearns did, I had to learn the hard way that justice in America belongs only to those with a fat enough wallet to buy it through the local outlet. If you don't have the six figures to hire a lawyer then you have no rights and no freedom in this country. Like a Wildebeest grazing blissfully in the middle of the herd, you have only not been awakened to that fact yet because no one has yet decided to attack you, or steal from you.
This has been the long way around to tell you that the creators of the film got it exactly right, with one serious flaw... for every Bob Kearns who has eviscerated themselves to win a Pyrrhic victory of the sort we witness here, there have been thousands who have given up for being too shallow in pocket or too short of mental fortitude or too short of the desire for self-flagellation required to press through to an empty, moral victory.
And even here, we see unmistakably that this "victory" costs Kearns what he valued most in his life. He didn't even live to see himself depicted as "heroic" in this fine film.
Still, thank you Bob, wherever you are.
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