Review: Tesla (Sundance 2020)

Title: Tesla
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Michael Almereyda
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Eve Hewson, Kyle MacLachlan
Runtime: 1 hr 36 mins

What It Is: Nikola Tesla (Hawke) is one of the late nineteenth century’s greatest minds. An inventor and innovator he is responsible for bringing alternating current to the biggest stage. Here we get a glimpse into the man behind the electromagnet nicknamed the “Tesla Coil”. From his days working for Thomas Edison to his poverty afterward to his redemption with the alternating current motor and Westinghouse Electric. Along the way his battles with bigwigs J.P. Morgan and subsequent battles with his own ideas and the lack of funds and technology to get them done.

What We Think: This is by far the worst film I saw this year at Sundance. If not for WoundsParadise Hills and of course The Souvenir this would be in contention for the all-time worst at the event. There are things that happen in this film that make absolutely no sense. I won’t go too far into it because then we’re in spoiler turf, but that said it’s a mess. Tesla is…technically Croatian (insofar as his hometown is in present-day Croatia) so I have to ask what the hell was that accent.

Our Grade: F, What an utter piece of garbage. If you’re reading this Ethan Hawke…I’m sorry bro. I don’t know what this film was doing but it certainly didn’t pull it off. It isn’t interesting in any way. There’s nothing worth witnessing here and that is a truly saddening thing. There was such hope for this given the concept and the cast. I mean you got Kyle MacLachlan to play Edison and somehow The Current War– Directors Cut is a better movie in a similar ilk. Sundance can do so much better and the worst part is the pandering to it done at the awards ceremony. Winning the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize which was sort of a loaded question as it was the only real candidate. But I suppose you have to do what you have to do to get Hawke on the jury.

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