Every week going grocery shopping, I drive past a Tesla repair facility and am perplexed as to why it is in MY neighborhood. More importantly, I’m fascinated by a name, car and company that I know very little about. What I do know about is the work of its director Michael Almereyda and what I love about his filmmaking is he never colors within the lines. It’s on the cusp, messy and confusing, but always interesting leaving you questioning everything not the screen.
When you Google Tesla, there are nearly 34 million results with mostly the same 3-4 images. Very little is known about Tesla. Born to Croatian parents in 1856, his father was an Orthodox/Serbian priest and an illiterate, yet loving mother. Tesla was a secretive, precocious child with a gift for languages and math that would lead him to Prague studying engineering. He would never graduate.
Almereyda provides an unusual look into the life, success and love of the technological inventor, whose journey began by expressing interest of a patent from George Westinghouse. Ultimately, Westinghouse and Thomas A. Edison would purchase Tesla’s patents (worth well over $1 million dollars today) with Westinghouse using the technology to invent the electric chair. Tesla is responsible for patents which are the power forces that govern motors, transmissions, power plants and alternating currents resulting in over 40 individual patents.
While learning how all these powerful men’s minds, lives and ideas intertwine, it takes at least a good 10-15 minutes before we get to the heart of the matter making the film a little laborious to screen. While I also appreciate and admire Ethan Hawke and Kyle MacLachlan, their talent and full potential are not utilized in this film. There are some odd moments like Hawke having an odd Karaoke moment. Yet, I kinda dug that the Tears for Fears track ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World.‘
At the end of the day, you’re let wondering if nature ad technology are likened to a giant cat. If so, who strokes it back? So, the next you turn on a light switch, start your car or run your air conditioner remember that an immigrant who learned to distribute energy through multiple currents is responsible for so many comforts we enjoy today. Tesla is now available in select theaters, digital and cable VOD on August 21st.