Flash of Genius

Marc Abraham’s directorial debut, Flash of Genius follows true-life figure Bob Kearns as he essentially invents the intermittent wiper and attempts to sell the invention to a major car company – with the narrative detailing Bob’s ongoing efforts at receiving credit for his work after said major car company comes out with their own version of the device. Filmmaker Abraham, working from a script by Philip Railsback, delivers a sporadically watchable yet entirely paint-by-numbers biopic that benefits substantially from Kinnear’s strong work as the affable protagonist, as the movie, for the most part, generally succeeds more as a showcase for the actor’s stirring performance than as a fully-realized, consistently-engrossing motion picture. It’s clear that many of Flash of Genius‘ problems stem from an overlong and padded-out running time, as there ultimately doesn’t seem to be enough story to comfortably fill the entirety of the film’s 119 minutes – which, in turn, paves the way for a decidedly erratic midsection that’s rife with sluggish stretches (eg Abraham spends an almost inordinate amount of time focused on Kearns’ second-act moping). There are a few exceptions to the mostly underwhelming atmosphere, thankfully, with the most obvious example of this Alan Alda’s electrifying turn as Kearns’ short-lived lawyer (and it’s Alda who provides the film with its best scene, as his character attempts to persuade Kearns to accept a deal from the other side). The courtroom sequences that close the proceedings ensure that the whole thing ends on a rather positive, uplifting note, which does, in the end, confirm Flash of Genius‘ place as a decent yet hopelessly erratic drama.

**1/2 out of ****

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