In "Flash of Genius," greed is not so good

Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:36pm EDT
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By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO (Reuters) - "Flash of Genius" may not be the sexiest film to debut this fall, but its true tale of the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers poses a timely question of values and ethics in the current economic crisis.

If a major, profit-oriented corporation offered you millions of dollars for your invention, but declined to give you credit for the idea, would you take the money and run?

"Flash of Genius," which premiered at the Toronto film festival earlier this month and hits theaters on Friday, tells of university professor Robert Kearns, who fought the Detroit automakers that he claimed tried to steal his invention.

Kearns, portrayed by Greg Kinnear in the film, paid dearly for his legal battle. His wife left him, and he was separated from his six kids. He lost his job and was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. Kearns died in 2005.

He never gave up over some 12 years, which in many movies would make Kearns a hero, but his stubborn mind-set in the face of losing everything important in his life also makes him unlikable at times.

Kinnear and writer/director Marc Abraham found his dual nature interesting to study in the film.

"To me, I've never been someone who thinks black and white in life, I've never found that to be true," Abraham said.

"And it's very, very, very rare that moments come with such clarity that you're right and everybody else is wrong."   Continued...

<p>Director Marc Abraham attends the "Flash Of Genius" news conference at the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival in this September 7, 2008 file photo. The film tells of university professor Robert Kearns, who fought Detroit automakers that he claimed tried to steal his invention for intermittent windshield wipers. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese/Files</p>