Flash of Genius – the Movie

When I read the Netflix jacket for this movie, I was not sure I wanted to see it.

Based on a true story, Dr. Robert Kearns, a college professor in engineering and an inventor in the 1950ies comes up with intermittent windshield wipers. He patents them, tries to sell them to Ford, and they are interested. They lead him on, he gets a company set up to manufacture the wipers, and they back away, effectively stealing his work and using it in their cars. Why? Why not pay him a royalty? Because they think they can get away with it. The story is about Kearns dogged perseverance against all odds fighting one of the biggest corporations in the world, Ford Motor. He loses his friends, his wife and his family in the process, even though his kids eventually come back.

Now, does that sound like a story you would want to make a movie out of? A two-hour movie at that? It started slow, and it went on slow, but I stayed with it. It is an underdog movie, about a decent family man, a hardworking engineer, a creative and passionate man, who gets screwed. I have been in situations where I have come up with something only to see others bring it forth in a product or a service. In my cases, they didn’t steal it from me. They followed through, and I did not.

Kearns follows through. Eventually he takes Ford to court and wins. As the film ends, we have, for a change, a case where the good guy gets to win, like in so many Grisham novels, or in Erin Brockowich, and the large corporation pays, even if it does take more than a dozen years of  work.

Rating: ***

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