Spacey stupid love – Father of Invention review

Father of InventionStarring Kevin Spacey, Camilla Belle and Heather Graham. Directed by Trent Cooper. Rated PG. By Hilary Simmons.

I love Kevin Spacey. I love him so much I once went on a Kevin Spacey movie bender with a boyfriend. Over one long weekend, we watched every movie with Kevin Spacey in it that we could get our hands on. So, you could argue that I’m a little biased when it comes to reviewing his films. In Father of Invention, Spacey reprises the type of role he clearly revels in: the snarky middle-aged businessman with the quiet desperation in his eyes. A fallen infomercial king, Robert Axel has just spent eight years in the slammer after one of his dual-purpose gadgets de-fingered 6,000 customers. His “depraved indifference to human life” cost him his $1.7 billion company and his credibility as a “fabricator.”

You see, Axel was always more than a smarmy snake-oil salesman: he was fervent about his inventions; the countless contrivances which he tenderly termed “fabrications.” You know, the kind you see triple-broadcast on TV when you’ve got insomnia, a hangover, or both. As a “fabricator,” Axel was beloved by the masses, so it’s a real buzz kill for him to discover that his name has become synonymous with “infamy.”

It is occasionally unclear whether director Trent Cooper intended to make a comedy or a melodrama; Axel’s attempt to re-establish his brilliant career and regain the respect of his daughter (Belle) is paved with pratfalls and a surprising amount of slapstick. Through flashbacks, we learn that he was successful but selfish; smooth-talking but disconnected from those around him. Ironically, the story’s a little shopworn, and the farcicality of the characters often feels as bogus as the gizmos Axel can’t seem to stop hawking.

There are lots of similarities between Robert Axel and Lester Burnham: this is the story of a narcissistic man who is belatedly realizing that the things he has consumed have in turn consumed him. However, the sentimental ending doesn’t hold a flame to American Beauty. Apparently Spacey had a hand in producing this film, which makes me like him less and feel vaguely ripped off – like I just purchased a crappy contraption off TV.


Father of Invention arrives on DVD November 2, 2011.

2 Responses to “Spacey stupid love – Father of Invention review”

  1. Great review – although I had to google the word pratfall, then got distracted by Wikipedia’s entry on the Pratfall Effect and only sometime later remember that I hadn’t actually finished the article. Glad I went back for it though – snappy closing line. 🙂

  2. I love Sam’s comment – sums it up for me!

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