If you ever wanted to see inventor Nikola Tesla's life story through the eyes of Baz Luhrmann than "Tesla" is the movie for you.
Reuniting with his "Hamlet" co-stars Ethan Hawke and Kyle MacLachlan, writer/director Michael Almereyda has crafted a modern spin on the enigmatic inventor that feels gimmicky and a bit pretentious.
Hawke plays the title character, who is presenting as a brooding loner trying to realize his dream of introducing the world to his revolutionary electrical system. Every time it looks like Tesla's invention is going to take footing his rival Thomas Edison (MacLachlan) is right there to block his path, until Tesla makes a breakthrough that changes the course of history - the alternate-current motor.
I was a fan of Almereyda's modern take of "Hamlet" (with "To be or not to be" delivered in a Blockbuster), but his attempt to modernize Tesla's story never clicks. From the opening scene when the film's narrator and Tesla's love interest Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson) tells the story using slide show presentations and referencing google it's clear we've entered some bizarre alternate world. But that world gets even weirder when one character pulling out and iPhone and continues to get so weird that by the time Hawke does a karaoke version of Tears for Fears "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" that "Tesla" has completely jumped the rails.
Hawke tries to make it work the best he can with a quiet intensity that at least makes the lead character interesting. MacLachlan plays Edison like a version of Evil Dale Cooper from "Twin Peaks" which is kind of fun, but only adds to the absurdity.
For anyone looking for a film to provide insight on Tesla, you won't find it here. If you just want a night of "Moulin Rouge"-esque craziness, then "Tesla" is the inventor bio pic you've been waiting for.