Thursday, March 26, 2009

Flash of Insanity?

The film, Flash of Genius was missed by many last year when it made the rounds to theatres. It is not a powerful dramatic film. There are no car chases, fight scenes or action sequences. It contains very little "adult" language. There is no nudity, sex or drug use. There are no high powered Hollywood stars. It is not a romance, comedy or romantic comedy. There is little here to argue for commercial success. However, Flash of Genius is a very good film.

Greg Kinnear stars as Robert Kearns, an engineering professor who has the idea, and then develops the intermittent windshield wiper. He tries to sell it to the Ford Motor Company, but they steal it. The bulk of the film deals with everything that Kearns lost as a result of Ford's theft- dignity, marriage, family, job, career, home, sanity (the list could go on). In one sense this is a very sad movie. A good man lost everything that he had ever held dear.

In another sense, this is a great triumph.
  • Although Kearns lost the respect of children he never gave up on them, or having a relationship with them. And although he ultimately lost his marriage, he always hoped to save or rescue that relationship. He was deeply committed to his family. When he finally gets his day in court, we are glad to see that all his children have joined is ad hoc legal team. They are all in this together. When Ford sends a representative to the Kearns home on the night before the verdict and offers $30 million to settle the case, there is very little interest in anyone in the family. They stick together. The importance of family is a great lesson in Flash of Genius.
  • Another triumph of this film is the importance of personal dignity and integrity. Our culture would have us believe that anything is okay if it leads to money, or an easy life, or advancement in the world. Robert Kearns rejects that idea. He is almost as corny as a traditional American superhero. He stands for truth, justice and the American way. A large settlement is less important to Kearns than the recognition that he was the inventor and that Ford stole his idea. For a moment I wanted him to compromise his convictions and take the money, but then I realized that it is much better to be principled than to be rich.
Flash of Genius is not everyone, but it is definitely worth watching.

1 comment:

Dennis Kearns said...

Rev Dewey

I appreciate your insight. The movie was toned down by Hollywood. My Dad would be very proud of your description. You point out that which was most important to him.

Robert Kearns, worked on the film for about 5 years before his death. Greg never got a opportunity to meet him, but did a magnificent job of becoming him.

Perhaps more would have seen this movie in the US had it not come out just as the Automotive Industry started whining about about their inability to manage their businesses without Billions of OUR dollars?

I'm proud to have been a consultant on the movie and to have participated in the reality.

Bob Kearns won 5 jury trials against some of the biggest corporations in the world.

It was what he had learned in school, it was what he as an engineering professor taught. Patents were granted to protect the inventors rights.

Perhaps his idealism was from his Jesuit training at the University of Detroit.

His U.S. Marine Corps training taught him when a bully picks a fight you don't back down. No matter the odds.

As for the other players:

The law firm that started the suits on our behalf represented Chrysler against us.

Federal Judge Avern Cohn and his former silk-stocking law partners along with Henry Ford II's friend Max Fisher, were estimated to have made a 2000% profit on the sale of property for Chrysler's World Headquarters (Detroit: Race and Uneven Development 1990)

My Mom helped take care of my Dad toward the end. We all were with him when he passed.

In the end We all hope we left it a better world.