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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Let There Be Light
by Betty Jo Tucker

Filmmaker Michael Almereyda’s Tesla is not a run-of-the-mill biopic. It includes whimsical scenes that did not happen (the narrator admits this), such as a segment with star Ethan Hawke performing a song written after Tesla died and the appearance of gadgets from the wrong time period as well as an amusing ice cream fight between rivals Tesla and Thomas Edison. So be forewarned and enjoy this unusual interpretation of the life of Nikola Tesla, frequently called “the man who invented the 20th century” because of his revolutionary work with alternating current electrical power.

Tesla introduces us to some of the people who played an important role in this famous inventor’s life. Kyle MacLachlan portrays Thomas Edison and makes us believe his confidence in his own direct electrical current over Tesla’s alternating current. An enthusiastic Jim Gaffigan plays George Westinghouse, but the film only gives this character a couple of scenes. That’s too bad, for “the combination of Tesla’s visionary genius and Westinghouse’s business and manufacturing genius are what brought us electricity as we know it today,” according to William H. Terbo, the grandnephew of Nikola Tesla.

The roles of mega-wealthy J.P. Morgan and his daughter Anne are filled by Donnie Keshawarz and lovely Eve Hewson. Both convince us of their positive feelings for Tesla and his work. J.P. gives him money and Anne falls for Tesla, who only has time for his work. Anne also narrates this biopic! Actress- extraordinaire Sarah Bernhardt, played by a dramatic Rebecca Dayan, enters the picture to give it some oomph. She catches Tesla’s fancy but not his heart.                            

Hawke’s performance may seem a bit stilted, but it does draw us into his inner world.  And the movie reminds us what amazing scientific advances were being made during his lifetime.   

Artistic scenes in TESLA glow.

What do they mean? It’s hard to know.

Ethan Hawke plays this famous man,

who invents things no others can.

 

Edison/Tesla? A bad mix

when it’s about E. current picks.

Edison had the money then.

  Will Tesla find investors? When?

 

J.P. Morgan comes into play

And for a while saves Tesla’s day.

Sarah Bernhardt adds sexy looks.

But Tesla’s thoughts remain his hooks.   

 

Futuristic, Tesla’s thinking.

     He must be up there -- and winking!

Wireless and AC current now

have earned the right to take a bow.

 

Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs.  The future for which I have really worked is mine. --- Nikola Tesla

(Released by IFC Films and rated “PG-13” by MPAA.)


                                                                                                                                                                               
 
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