29 March 2009 | bob the moo
"Solid" is probably the nicest thing you can say about it
OK, so, on paper you must confess that any film that dramatises anything involving windscreen-wipers runs the risk of being pretty darn dull. But then at the same time maybe it is one of those films that sounds dull but is actually thrilling by way of drawing the viewer into the subject. When you thing about it, ignoring the part of the car that it involves, this story of the little man put down by a heartless corporation is pretty well timed with the strength of feeling towards our economic ruling class nowadays. So maybe Flash of Genius could ride that wave and deliver an impacting and uplifting story of overcoming at the same time full of tension and emotion. Well, yes, I guess it "could" but the question is "does it?"
Unfortunately the answer to that is "no" and at best the film could be described as "solid". Contrary to my preconception the film is not dull because of the subject or because it gives lots of detail on engineering but rather because it seems to drag everything out and offer the viewer very little reason to care. It doesn't appear to focus on forward motion because if there is an opportunity to go over old ground or get into a rut then you best believe that it takes it. It is not a grind though, don't get me wrong, it is not a bad film, but just one that seems happy to do very little other than the basics. The courtroom scenes are where it should have come to life but even these fail to thrill or engage OK they are there and they are "fine" for what they are but how am I the viewer supposed to be excited by what I am watching if the film itself seems all very underwhelmed by it.
I won't say that the cast are the problem but they are certainly part of it. Kinnear tries to deliver the character with real emotion in a way that will draw sympathy from the audience but his drab performance and repetitive delivery is part of the film being slowed down and not allowed to fizz. Graham doesn't help because she is part of this aspect of his character. In fairness she is quite lively and real but she cannot lift the film when the rest of it seems so intent on being average and sluggish. Alda turns up to offer the viewer hope as he enters the film with his custom delivery and energy, having several good scenes before disappearing again. Pileggi is a good solid "baddie" in the corporate sense and perhaps it would have helped to have allowed him more room to play with his character. Sadly none of the cast really gets to do this other than Kinnear, who has to take his scenes down into "despair" in a way that deadens the film and robs it of pace. Perhaps this is an accurate telling of the story but in this case it comes at a price and that price is the film's effectiveness and entertainment value.
This leaves Flash of Genius as a film that is far too worthy for its own good. It plays like a solid TVM and it certainly offered me nothing to justify why it was in the cinema with me when at best it was a DVD release. It has little in the way of drama or tension to it and it is hard to emotionally buy into the film in the way I needed to be able to in order to stick with it. If "solid" is what you are after then this is an OK film but the only remarkable thing about it is just how unremarkable, sluggish and frankly dull the whole thing is.