Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Father of Invention


Kevin Spacey is Robert Axle, a TV pitchman who has built a $1.6 billion-dollar company on the strength of his inventions, which are always the fusion of two products already on the market. We see his pitch at the beginning, showing several silly products. My favorite is a camera that also shoots pepper spray, so you can disable a mugger and take his picture at the same time. But one of his products has a propensity to pinch off people’s fingers …

We rejoin him ten years later as he exits a prison after eight years on the inside. He is penniless, homeless, bedraggled, beaten down by life. His ex-wife, Virginia Madsen, has gotten $362 million dollars in a settlement, his classic gull-wing Mercedes, his palatial mansion … everything. His former business partner now has the company. He moves in with his daughter, Camilla Belle, and her two quirky roommates, Heather Graham (who was 40 when this was made, and looks 25!) and Rhoda Griffis. He has lots of issues with his daughter, who was emotionally neglected as a child.

The wife has somehow managed to burn through every nickel of the third of a billion. “You’d be surprised how easy it is,” she says. One way: She wanted a gold record, though she has no talent. So she has 300,000 copies of her album printed, and buys 298,000 of them herself. Somewhere in New Orleans, where this was filmed, there is a warehouse full of bad music. Poor Kevin is rebuffed at every turn. He keep encountering people with missing fingers who remember all too well who he is. He is unable to keep a job or get a loan for his new, fabulous idea—a combination wireless child “leash” and video game—and his old partner is going to steal it from him.

So I’ve mentioned some of the good stuff. Practically all of it, come to think of it. It’s very predictable. With twenty minutes to go we decided we were just interested enough to see how it all came out. And you can guess, and you’d be right. He has his come-to-Jesus moment onstage, in front of a thousand potential investors, saying this crap isn’t important, it’s your family that’s important. To huge applause. Yeah, right. Father and daughter reconcile, and even the bitch ex-wife turns out to be a honey pie. Yuck.