Our lives today would be unrecognizable without the achievements of visionary inventor Nicola Tesla in the fields of the transmission of electrical power and light. 

There have been several books and movies on the man (check out The Current War), not to mention a car company named after him. So director Michael Almereyda has taken a refreshingly novel and experimental approach to the stuffy period drama, making use of pastel shades, frequent breaches of the fourth wall, and patently phony painted backgrounds. There’s even a bit where Tesla belts out Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule the World.” And it works!

Ethan Hawke puts in a nicely internalized performance in the title role, while Kyle MacLachlan checks in as Thomas Edison, and Jim Gaffigan tries on George Westinghouse. Eve Hewson is the best thing in the movie as Westinghouse’s daughter Anne, Tesla’s sort-of love interest. Anne serves as the narrator here, utilizing such anachronistic communication tools as Google and Wikipedia to illustrate the points she’s making. 

Bottom line: Hardly perfect and a tad slow, but it certainly gets points for trying new stuff. (102 min)

Japan release date March 26

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