Movies based on true stories tend to crumble under their own weight. The reason being is familiarity. Despite being based on true events, the story itself is riddled with cliches (which may have been added in to “spice things up a bit”). They build upon a biography that is common ground (such as a coach leading a losing sports team to victory). What separates Flash of Genius from these movies is its abnormal story.
Bob Kearns (Greg Kinnear) felt he was put on this earth to leave a mark. As an inventor, he felt his landmark was to be a groundbreaking invention. What that invention is, however, was unbeknownst to him. A rainy day changed all of that.
Due to complications with his windshield wipers, Bob came across a flash of genius: intermittent windshield wipers. His thought was every car in America would need a pair of these wipers, which would bring him fame and fortune. Thanks from the help of his good friend Gil Previck (Dermot Mulroney), he is able to get this idea off the ground and into production.
The execs at Ford love the idea, and were already in research of the same thing. Thankfully for them, Bob already figured it out. They do have one problem, though. Kearns wants to manufacture the product himself, which is a high-risk. Instead of telling Kearns this, they lead him on, only to drop him and continue with the project themselves.
As Bob notices the intermittent windshield wipers are on the road, he wants his share of the profit and recognition. Ford doesn’t give him either, accusing him of lying. This leaves Kearns on a years-long crusade to take Ford to court to get the recognition he deserves, bringing his wife Phyllis (Lauren Graham) and his six children along for the ride, tearing them apart in the process.
This isn’t a story you hear about every day. That’s what makes it so interesting. The unfamiliarity, coupled in with good directing via Marc Abraham and a coherently written story, make for an intriguing viewing. Superb acting by Greg Kinnear doesn’t hurt, either.