Flash of Genius
Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear) is an ordinary college engineering professor in 1960s Detroit. His wife, Phyllis (Lauren Graham), takes care of their modest house and six kids, and their lives are, for the most part, pleasant. Bob is also an amateur inventor, and in his basement he successfully develops a process to make a car's windshield wipers "blink"--what's today known as the intermittent windshield wiper. It's an invention he hopes the Ford Motor Co. will want to install on its new cars, but when a business deal collapses and Kearns spies intermittent wipers on Ford cars in 1969, he single-mindedly--to the detriment of his own mental health and family--pursues Ford in patent court, sparking a nearly 20-year battle to get the automotive giant to concede that it stole its functional system from him. Director Marc Abraham's Flash of Genius is, to its credit, an old-fashioned drama about the proverbial little guy standing up to a corporate monolith, but thanks to its unsentimental sobriety and Kinnear's remarkably nuanced performance, it never bubbles into the mawkish. It's a flaws-and-all character study of a man fighting for his dignity, corny as that sounds, and Kinnear makes it mundanely heroic.