Father of Invention

We’ve all seen Kevin Spacey play the arrogant bastard (Horrible Bosses, The Men Who Stare At Goats, 21, Superman Returns) and we’ve seen him play the more bizarre characters (Se7en, The Usual Suspects, K-PAX), so there is no denying his appeal and talent. Yet, my doubt was if he could take the former, mix it with the latter a bit and add-on some genuine emotions. In Father of Invention, Kevin Spacey does just that as fabricator, Robert Axle.


If you remember the late, great Billy Mays, you know Robert Axle. He was an infomercial king, who built a multi-billion dollar company from scratch. His life was great and he was inventing (fabricating) new ideas all the time. Then he invents something that inadvertently cuts off peoples’ fingers, loses half his fortune to clients and the rest to his wife (Virginia Madsen) and goes to jail for eight years. When he is released, Robert has to accept his low status as a convicted felon while trying to repair a broken relationship with his daughter, Claire (Camilla Belle).

For a film with a relatively formulaic plot, Invention has a good amount of heart to it, as well as an oddball cast of A and B (C) list actors – John Stamos, Heather Graham, Johnny Knoxville and Craig Robinson also star. While the story of Axle working his way back to fame and fortune is interesting to watch since the felony charge aspect keeps coming back to bite him, the story with Claire becomes the focal point due to the genuine relationship between Spacey and Belle.


It becomes more and more amazing how well they work together to portray a broken relationship that was previously very close. As can be expected from a neglectful father storyline, we see the character arc from hatred to love and back in Claire, but Invention gives us a look into her life a little more than most films by showing her struggles to achieve success in her endeavors. She has no desire to end up like her father, but she wants to make a difference in the world like he did. Meanwhile, Robert is stuck trying his hardest to just get back on his feet despite everything crumbling around him.

Now, this is not to say that Invention is devoid of glaring and annoying flaws (i.e. characters). The biggest of which is Lorraine (Madsen). She does not have a large role in the film by any stretch of the imagination, but in many ways she is more of a villain in Claire’s life than Robert. Once Robert hit it big with his first fabrication, she saw the money and never looked back. She ends up neglecting Claire more and she isn’t working or in jail. The writers tried turning her character around in the end, but it’s too little too late and you’re just annoyed she didn’t try to leave sooner.


The other character that is more or less useless to the story, yet gets screen time, is Phoebe (Graham). Many of you will say, “Well that’s because Heather Graham can’t act.” Not a false statement, but not applicable to this situation since Phoebe is just an awful character. She’s an angry lesbian, but not a lesbian, but also not really very angry and you can’t get to know her unless you play Rock Band, but even then she’s still got a “dark” side. Phoebe is a nonsensical character that the writers try to include and make her influential in Robert’s growth, but it’s a sad attempt and Graham ends up looking kind of stupid as a result.

Despite Lorraine and Phoebe, I would suggest giving Father of Invention a try. It’s fun and relaxed and the end is never in doubt, so you can just enjoy the ride. Warning: DO NOT watch the credits. There is an awful scene that made me want to drop this movie a few grades, but that wouldn’t be fair.

  1. Is it just me, or do you get the feeling Spacey has been coasting through his movie career in recent years, while he focuses on his theatre work? It just feels like he isn’t trying as hard as he uses to. I’ve never heard of this one before though. That doesn’t happen very often! I might check this out.

    • You are not alone. He doesn’t really put as much effort into his characters and it’s no different here. Axle is simply a more likable person than some of his previous roles.

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