Nikola Tesla is in the “have you heard of?’ category of inventors. He does not have the name recognition of Thomas Edison and has only recently been given more recognition. Still, he is one of the most important inventors in history. He may have died and unknown and in poverty, but his contributions are recognized today. Tesla is a unique biographical drama that tries to figure out what drove the man.
The movie is incredibly risky. From its use of a narrator from the 19th century using Google to explain things to the audience to a surprising singing performance from Tesla, director Michael Almereyda seems to use every idea he thought of. Not everything works, but when they do, they tend to be some of the film’s most captivating moments.
Tesla is a funny movie. There is more to it than sight gags and the use of the band Tears for Fears. The script contains a wit not seen even in movies that are supposed to be funny. There is a mix of jokes and dry humor that keeps the audience surprised. While the movie is not a comedy, it also is not afraid to laugh. This makes the already engrossing story that much more watchable.
The performances are great, for the most part. In a career filled with memorable roles, this may be Ethan Hawke’s finest. His turn as the eccentric inventor will have audiences feeling the many emotions Tesla goes through. The downside is not everyone is able to keep up with the outstanding job Hawke does. While they are also wonderful, Hawke’s performances make those not up to his stand out.
The story in Tesla is different from other biopics. Many of those are so steeped in historical fact, they forget to have fun. The ones that are willing to play with the truth tend to make things so outlandish they make a joke out of the subject. The difference here is the ability to sprinkle the what if’s and what could have been’s around the facts. It makes for a very engaging watch.
Biopics largely depend on the subject. Though he has seen a resurgence in popularity, Nikola Tesla is not the first name that comes to minds when it comes to inventors. For the longest time, he seemed destined to be the Vine to Thomas Edison’s Tik Tok Tesla is a beautiful movie that uses excellent storytelling mixed with a modern flair to shed some light on the inventor.
Tesla premieres Friday August 21 in theaters and on demand.