Flash of Genius

October 3rd, 2008


Flash of Genius

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Still of Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham in Flash of GeniusStill of Greg Kinnear in Flash of GeniusStill of Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham in Flash of GeniusStill of Dante Spinotti and Marc Abraham in Flash of GeniusStill of Greg Kinnear in Flash of GeniusFlash of Genius

Robert Kearns takes on the Detroit automakers who he claims stole his idea for the intermittent windshield wiper.

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 6.9/10 (8,104 voted)

Critic's Score: 57/100

Director: Marc Abraham

Stars: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Alan Alda

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...

Writers: Philip Railsback, John Seabrook

Greg Kinnear - Bob Kearns
Tim Eddis - Maryland Cop #1
Warren Belle - Maryland Cop #2
Karl Pruner - Pete
Bill Lake - Scott
Dermot Mulroney - Gil Previck
Lauren Graham - Phyllis Kearns
Landon Norris - Young Dennis
Shae Norris - Young Kathy
Steven Woodworth - Young Tim
Victoria Learn - Young Maureen
Dylan Authors - Young Patrick
Ronn Sarosiak - Reverend
Gavin Kuiack - Baby Bob Jr.
Ben Kuiak - Baby Bob Jr.

Taglines: They had the power. He had the truth.


Official Website: Official site [France] | Official site [United States] |

Release Date: 3 October 2008

Filming Locations: Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $2,251,075 (USA) (5 October 2008) (1098 Screens)

Gross: $3,744,790 (USA) (12 October 2008)

Technical Specs

Runtime: USA:  | Canada: (Toronto International Film Festival)

Did You Know?

Remained in theaters for only three weeks.

Continuity: During the scene in the coffee house between Dr. Kearns and his son Dennis, the newspaper changes suddenly from being held between Kearns' hands, to lying on the table, to back between his hands. Interestingly, the actor is using it regardless of its position to emphasize his emotion, for example by squeezing it between his hands or tapping it with his finger as it lies on the table.

User Review

Great film - sad story

Rating: 10/10

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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