Tesla | Chicago Reader


Tesla, much like Nikola himself, struggles to sell big ideas, asking the audience to value intent over impact. Juxtaposing Tesla’s (Ethan Hawke) immigrant inventor with Thomas Edison’s (Kyle MacLachlan) American industrialist, the film employs Hawke's brand of brilliance and brooding well. It's one of the many factors that electrifies an otherwise recognizable story. The other and most notable is director Michael Almereyda's penchant for adding a fantastical edge to historical tales. Like Almereyda's 2015 film Experimenter, the narrator (Tesla's associate Anne Morgan, played by Eve Hewson) breaks the fourth wall to deliver history as it's unfolding, but references such modern-day inventions as Google. This use of artistic license is sure to agitate some, and admittedly, it creates an unevenness. Still, certain surreal scenes harness as much staying power as the luminary’s legacy, including Tesla karaoking Tears For Fears’s 1985 hit "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." Like the film, it’s just bizarre enough to work.


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