Based on the true story of college professor and part-time inventor Robert Kearns? (Greg Kinnear) long battle with the U.S. automobile industry, Flash of Genius tells the tale of one man whose fight to receive recognition ... more »for his ingenuity at any price. This determined engineer refused to be silenced, and he took on the corporate titans in a battle that nobody thought he could win. 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. While refusing to compromise his dignity, this everyday David will try the unthinkable: to bring Goliath to his knees.« less
Jennifer D. (jennicat) from ST AUGUSTINE, FL Reviewed on 2/19/2015...
At first I was like, why did I get this movie. But it was really interesting and then I remembered why I got it... it was a true story. I love Greg Kinnear.
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 1/26/2014...
I am always a sucker for films that are based on a true story or event and this one is fantastic! When the little guy takes on huge conglomerates such as the Ford Motor Company and Chrysler the odds are usually stacked up against that daring individual. Robert Kearns had a great idea with his blinking eye concept related to automobile windshield wipers. He figured out how to make those wiper blades work intermittently and wanted to manufacture them himself. Ford however did not want to share with the inventor so set about installing them on their cars with no care for that inventors patents. He took them on and even though it caused plenty of hardship for him (he and his wife divorced, several of his children turned against him) he persevered and eventually won millions from Ford and Chrysler. The movie is entertaining and informative (kept me awake!). Greg Kinnear deserved an Oscar! Lauren Graham (Parenthood) played his wife and also did an excellent job. All the child actors who played the children were also super in their roles. Highly recommended!
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Leah G. (Leahbelle) from NIPOMO, CA Reviewed on 6/17/2012...
This movie was gripping and held my attention throughout. Knowing it was a true story, I was amazed at the perserverence of Dr. Kearns. Good acting.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Anna W. (annie215) from CHARLESTOWN, IN Reviewed on 9/5/2011...
This was a very enjoyable DVD. Just goes to show you that if you persevere you can win even against a giant Corp, such as Ford Mtr. Co. Greg Kinnear was excellent.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
William F. (furmage) from APPLE VALLEY, CA Reviewed on 4/16/2011...
I love this movie, Anyone who has fought a cause that was drawn out over years can also relate to this movie. Our kids and their friends were getting their BMX Freestyle Bikes impounded for riding in our towns Skateboard only park, So I started attending Town Council meetings to bring a rule change, 125 meeting in 5 1/2 years. I would not stop until they listen to me. The first 2 years, nothing. Then they started to see that I was'nt going to stop going to the meetings until they changed that silly " No Bikes Allowed" Rule. This is why I can really relate to this movie. I know I did'nt have a product. but an Idea that needed to be heard. William "Crazy Lacy" Furmage Original Vans BMX Freestyler from 1982.
0 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jorge S. (jorgito2001) from WESLEY CHAPEL, FL Reviewed on 4/23/2010...
Good drama! Greg Kinnear really shows his acting chops. his character is a little TOO overly obsessive (and due to this his family suffers), but its part of what makes the movie. Worth checking out.
S A A. (Learned2Heal) Reviewed on 4/6/2010...
A very interesting movie about one man's 'obsession' with seeing justice done. This is a true story about how 2-3 huge motor companies stole this man's invention - the intermittent wiper - and the guy devoted 12 years of his life to the pursuit of justice and recognition for his invention.
The story is quite riveting and Greg Kinnear is in a role very unlike his usual stuff. Dermot Mulroney is virtually unrecognizable with a very strange haircut and a character also very different from his norm. His somewhat wooden acting style actually works in this role. Usually, I just enjoy him as eye candy, because his acting ain't nuthin to write home about. But here, with his strange haircut, the whole persona works quite well.
All in all, a very watchable movie, with a good plot, great acting, very good score, and interesting cinematography. It does not fizzle at the end - perhaps because it is a real-life story that was only worth telling because of the ending. I recommend it to all.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Pamela A. from WHEELING, WV Reviewed on 1/1/2010...
Well worth seeing! Great ending
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Inspiration Comes to Those Who Blink
Chris Pandolfi | Los Angeles, CA | 10/09/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't know how accurately "Flash of Genius" portrays the real Robert Kearns. If he was anything like Greg Kinnear's representation, he may be one of the most relatable people I know of. In the film, Kearns is passionate, determined, stubborn, and cursed with a one-track mind. He was a college engineering professor and an independent inventor with an absolute sense of right and wrong, and because the Ford Motor Company wrongs him, he puts all his energy into making it right. We may not all be inventors, but I think it's safe to say that most of us understand why he does what he does, and that's because we've all been passionate about something. This isn't to say that we can completely side with him; as admirable as his intentions are, he ends up neglecting his wife, his children, and his job, and he unfairly drags his family through a twelve-year legal nightmare. One wonder whether or not the journey was worth it.
The Kearns character is the lifeblood of "Flash of Genius." He holds everything together, and that's because the filmmakers develop him far more than any other character. This was done on purpose, I suspect. This is his dream, his effort, his obsession--everyone else is either along for the ride or left standing at the curb. The film's structure is just as narrow-minded as Kearns is, which will be problematic if you want a story that develops all of its characters. I wasn't bothered by it, and that's because I wanted to see things from his perspective. I wanted to understand why he believed so strongly when others didn't. I wanted to be convinced that he was doing the right thing by fighting a gigantic corporation that ripped off his windshield wiper design. I'm not too sure about that last one; he refuses each and every offer to settle, even when handsome sums of money are involved. The principle is to never give in, and while it's a good principle, it's also not very helpful for a family's financial security.
Where the film falters is in matters of time passage. While the occasional, "Four years later," is displayed, there are still far too many gaps. Kearns' children grow up before our eyes, and his hair seems to get grayer with every passing scene. I'm not entirely sure what year the story begins in. I can only go by actual history, which tells us that Kearns first came up with the idea of the intermittent windshield wiper in 1963, as he and his family were driving on a misty night in Detroit, Michigan. In the film, Kearns is bothered by the fact that his car's wipers can only move at a set speed. He then remembers his honeymoon night ten years earlier, in which a champagne cork hit him in the eye; with a little engineering, windshield wipers just might be able to operate in much the same way as an eyelid, which blinks at an intermittent rate. He proceeds to build a prototype in his basement.
In 1967, Kearns and his business partner, Gil Privick (Dermot Mulroney), patent the new wiper system. They then show the device to the Ford Motor Company, who seem genuinely interested, if a little too curious; they want to know how the device works, but Kearns won't tell them, not until a deal can be worked out. A Ford exec (Mitch Pileggi) appears intrigued on the surface, but we suspect that underneath, he cares nothing for Kearns. He just wants the device, and true to form, he makes it so that the company backs out of the deal and installs Kearns' wiper system in all the newest car models. It's a reliable but nonetheless unoriginal method for developing a movie villain. This isn't to say that such people don't exist in real life; I'm well aware that major corporations--and the people who run them--have been known to be greedy and corrupt. But since we're talking about a movie here, it might have been better if the filmmakers had taken a different approach.
Kearns carries his anger and resentment all the way to 1982, when, after years of fighting uphill legal battles, he was finally able to sue the Ford Motor Company. Because his relationship with his attorney (Alan Alda) had soured, Kearns decided to represent himself. Some will see this movie and determine that Kearns gave up too much to get that far. It takes thirteen years to see the process through, and at a certain point, his wife, Phyllis (Lauren Graham), and their children begin to feel abandoned. On top of that, Kearns is continuously offered large cash settlements in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. Because they refuse to admit any wrongdoing, Kearns always turns their offers down.
On the other hand, some audiences will completely side with Kearns, believing that the principle is more important than the money. I have to admit that I'm on the fence. Is it worth it to keep fighting a powerful corporation, even when you know you're right? Is it worth it to stand up for what you believe in while your loved ones are left in the sidelines? What makes "Flash of Genius" work so well is the fact that we're made to see everything from a very single-minded perspective, which in turn allows us to understand the main character. I'm surprised it worked, considering the fact that stories told from multiple perspectives are more complex, more thought provoking, and more compelling. We're immersed in one man's quest for justice, and we see him through to the end. I won't reveal what happens, even if you know everything about case. But rest assured, it ends appropriately, and it reminds us that, with determination, even insignificant people can make a big difference."
Greg Kinnear Finally Brings It
Daniel G. Lebryk | 03/08/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Greg Kinnear's performance of his life. Well known as a B actor in mostly B films, or deep in the supporting role in A films. Greg comes out swinging in this film. He is simply remarkable as the possessed engineer Bob Kearns that invented the intermittent windshield wiper. Lauren Graham is his gorgeous wife, Phyllis. Where Kinnear ages during this many years film, Graham does not age much. She does come off a bit young for the mother of the seven children.
This is a long film, almost 2 hours. The director played with the timeline in a needlessly confusing way, through subtitles. The film opens with a scene that is then rewound to three years earlier. And the time increments just get stranger and stranger. About 1/4 of the way through the film the viewer is now back at the same time as the opening of the film. In fact it gets very hard to figure out, what will the rest of the film be about. By about the first half hour, he's already invented, tried to build and sell the device, been shot down, had the idea stolen by Ford, and goes crazy. Never fear the rest of the film is interesting, but it does feel spent after that first half hour. Although the viewer is treated to strange time jumps, a month here, a few months there, a year here, another few years here, and four years there....
The topic of the film is that age old, an individual stands up for what they beleive is right, to heck with money and any other damage that fight might bring. That theme is well played, well told in this film.
This is not the best edited film. There are some pacing issues, mostly taking too long to get to the point. The moved around timeline really gets in the way of telling this story, it was almost an artificial effect to create interest. The other technical components are well done, decent filming, and sound well recorded. Music was subtle and supported the film very well.
The DVD has a few deleted scenes. Several should stay deleted, a few actually belonged in the film. There were moments where the film had been edited down to reach a certain film length. Certain story elements were left hanging and those two deleted scenes would have helped.
The film is PG-13, for language, and it is reasonably mild use not gratitous. There is no nudity. No real eroticism either, simply a moment early on where Phyllis asks Bob if he'd like to make another child. This is a film that younger viewers might want to watch with parents. There is a fantastic story for discussion about doing the right thing.
Flash Of Genius was a bit of a surprise. Greg Kinnear was a stand out. The story was moving. The timeline manipulation brought the film down."
Flash of Genius
C. A. Luster | Burke, VA USA | 02/25/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you build it, they will steal it. No "Field of Dreams" for Dr. Bob Kearns. Most people are unfamiliar with the case involving the "intermittent wiper" or may have heard of the settlement when it took place. Some law students may be familiar if their professor discussed this one along with the mandatory McDonald's hot coffee. Suffice it to say this is an interesting story if you like to see David taking on the giant. Here Ford is the giant and Dr. Kearns plays David. Kearns patented the first "working" intermittent wiper, but Ford thought they could claim they made it after seeing his working model because they built all the parts. This is as much or more about the impact the drawn out case has on Kearn's family as anything. Sometimes getting justice does not mean getting a happy ending. Great drama. Good quality DVD with good replayability. If you enjoyed this catch "Tucker".
Finally, so many years after Don Ameche's movie on the Bell
Tom Brody | Berkeley, CA | 06/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"FLASH OF GENIUS starring Greg Kinnear, with the affable Alan Alda as one of his lawyers, concerns the man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper and his legal battle against various auto manufacturers who misappropriated his invention and infringed his patents. This is a true story. Finally, America is treated to another movie on patent law. It has been many years since America first saw, THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939) starring Don Ameche and Henry Fonda.
In a nutshell, Robert W. Kearns, a university professor, invented the intermittent wiper at home. He secured many patents, e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,494,059 issued Jan. 1985, 4,544,870 issued Oct. 1985, 4,339,698 issued July 1982, and 4,531,066 issued July 1985. Unfortunately, while trying to gain funding for a start-up company, he showed his device to Ford Motor Co., who misappropriated his invention, and put it in their automobiles.
Although Mr. Kearns secured the help of various lawyers, he is distinguished by his efforts at representing himself in court. In the film, Greg Kinnear's high point in court is his argument that his invention, which consists of old parts being put together in a new arrangement, is like Dickens' book TALE OF TWO CITIES consisting of old, established words being put together in a new way. (I might comment that Greg Kinnear's charming analogy confuses patent law with copyright law.)
The personal interest angle of this film arises from the mess that Mr. Kearns made of his family, due to his loss of job, and infatuation with his lawsuits. What is striking and dramatic about the story of Mr. Kearns, is that he prevailed in some of his lawsuits, despite that he was representing himself ("pro se"), and despite the fact that the lawsuits were heard in a court in the company town (Detroit). According to real newspaper articles, Mr. Kearns won settlements of around $30 million. It might be argued that Mr. Kearns might have messed up his life, or that Mr. Kearns did something unusual, by spending so much time in law suits. On the other hand, other inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Nicola Tesla also spent huge quantities of time with their patent lawsuits.
TAKE-HOME LESSON #1. This movie provides a couple of take-home lessons. The layperson will be struck by the notion that Mr. Kearns was pursuing what was ethically right, namely, achieving recognition for being the inventor of the intermittent wiper. The movie makes clear that his primary goal was not to earn lots of money. However, Mr. Kearns failed to realize that the primary purpose of the U.S. patent system is to stimulate commercial development, and NOT TO REWARD THE INVENTOR. This fact is made clear in Edward Walterscheid's excellent book, TO PROMOTE THE PROGRESS OF USEFUL ARTS:AMERICAN PATENT LAW AND ADMINISTRATION 1787-1836. Thus, Mr. Kearns was wrong in being fixated on the notion that he had a right to be recognized as "the inventor" of the intermittent wiper.
TAKE-HOME LESSON #2. Much of the movie concerns the deterioration of Mr. Kearns' commitment to his university responsibilities, and to his family responsibilities, due to his focus on lawsuits. But this sort of thing is not unusual. Plenty of families break up because the husband or wife are overly committed to their job. (An example might be President Ronald Reagan's divorce, apparently arising from the fact that his first wife had no interest in politics.) But the unique take-home lesson in this movie is Mr. Kearns' notion that he should argue his own cases in court. Shown below are some quotes from opinions from the Federal Circuit, an appeals court in Washington D.C. devoted to patent cases. From these opinions, it can be seen that the judges at the Federal Circuit found Mr. Kearns to be disgusting. The first quote discloses that he had been representing himself ("pro se"). The second quote discloses that he was abusing the court system. In other words, in the U.S. court system, plaintiffs are permitted to represent themselves, but in a complex patent case, a plaintiff who tries to do this will invariably make a garbled mess of their own cause and waste the time of all those concerned:
"This matter stems from Kearns' longstanding battle with the automobile manufacturing industry concerning the infringement of the claims of Kearns' patents relating to electronic intermittent windshield wiper systems. Kearns has been represented by various law firms over the last 13 years. As of March 1992, Kearns has been proceeding pro se." (Federal Circuit, Dec. 30, 1992)
"Without question, Dr. Kearns' refusal to obey the court orders prejudiced GM. GM could not reasonably prepare a defense to the infringement charges until it knew exactly which claims Dr. Kearns would assert. Throughout the proceedings Dr. Kearns refused to accept that he could only assert patents listed in his complaint. Moreover, Dr. Kearns refused to comply with the district court's order to limit his case to one representative claim per patent. There are 51 claims in the five patents listed in the complaint and 232 total claims in all of Dr. Kearns' patents . . . Dr. Kearns sought, despite clear orders to the contrary, to assert every claim of every patent he owned. Thus, he knowingly ignored the district court's reasonable order seeking to simplify a highly complex case . . . I'm going to dismiss this case. My patience is at an end. My judicial patience is at an end. Dr. Kearns has had more than ample time in which to designate the claims . . . Dr. Kearns is in complete default. A patent case cannot go forward without the claims-in-suit, the asserted claims being designated . . . The complete transcript of that hearing shows that the trial court considered the alternative of designating the claims on its own, but decided that dismissal was more appropriate in light of Kearns' repeated refusals to obey pretrial orders . . . There is a vast difference between a pro se plaintiff with a meritorious case unable to afford counsel and a pro se plaintiff with a meritorious case declining to employ counsel because of a misplaced lack of trust in lawyers or an inflated opinion notion of his ability to prosecute his own case. Here, we certainly have the latter. (Federal Circuit, July 26, 1994). "