At the Movies with Kevin: Flash of Genius

I have never possessed much affection for large corporations. Although the greed is aggravating, it is understandable because businesses must make a profit in order to continue to flourish and create more jobs.

These companies believe that the same rules and regulations that apply to family run establishments and everyday citizens do not apply to them because of their enormous financial worth.

The current financial crisis echoes these sentiments with this superiority being accurately illustrated in Flash of Genius, which is based on a true story.

Greg Kinnear stars as Frank Kearns, an engineering professor who suddenly realizes the need for an intermittent windshield wiper in all vehicles because of the differing velocity of rain. Although this was a problem the car companies were well aware of, Kearns was actually the first person to figure out a way to make it work, selling his discovery to Ford Motor Company hastily with a hope of designing it himself.

After Ford vigorously tested his product, they knew that it worked, but they did not want Robert Kearns to take credit for beating all the car companies to the “windshield competition.”

Ford told him that their interest on the wiper had waned and that they wanted out of the deal they were legally abided to follow. After they came out with a model of cars with the intermittent windshield wipers as one of the features, Robert Kearns was upset, hurt, and prepared to fight for justice in a system that states a man’s creations is his castle and stealing those is like burning it down.

Kearns was not seeking outlandish monetary efforts, but simply an admission of guilt that the Ford Motor Company stole his design because they could.

The strength of the film is Kinnear’s superb portrayal of a man whose greatest asset of being driven was also his biggest weakness. It is a tricky role because he has to be vulnerable and yet forceful, understandable and somewhat unreasonable in his actions.

Ultimately, Flash of Genius is a tragedy about a man whose life was torn apart because of a corporation’s unwillingness to admit a mistake they made while attempting to save a few dollars. The Ford Motor Company did not care that they were negatively affecting seven people’s lives other than Robert Kearns because of their inability to admit their humanity.

Ford simply thought they could buy Kearns off, even offering $30 million at one point in the proceedings with no admission of guilt, which was promptly turned down.

Flash of Genius illustrates the essential but often forgotten belief that justice is not free or easy and that many people are emotionally scarred because of an investigation into the truth, causing unknown fatalities across the universal landscape. Frank Kearns was one of these casualties.

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