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What Critics Say About Ethan Hawke's Tesla

It's a 'brilliantly internalized performance,' says one
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2020 10:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Before there was Tesla the company, there was Tesla the man. Nikola Tesla, to be precise, and a new film—called Tesla—about the pioneering scientist is generally drawing praise for Ethan Hawke's portrayal. See the trailer. The overall score on Rotten Tomatoes is 59%. Examples of what critics are saying:

  • Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: "Hawke, without exaggerating or diluting Tesla’s eccentricity, distills the character’s strange, sometimes contradictory essence." Chang refers to "Hawke's brilliantly internalized performance" and also credits writer-director Michael Almereyda for providing a film that gives Tesla his due. (As the Rotten Tomatoes score suggests, this isn't a unanimous sentiment.)
  • AO Scott, New York Times: He calls Hawke's performance "quietly magnetic," adding that Hawke portrays Tesla "as a restless soul burdened by genius and haunted by melancholy." A lesser film might try to trace that back to Tesla's childhood or something along those lines. But in this one, Tesla "is neither a heroic visionary nor a tragic hero. He’s a mood."

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  • Amy Nicholson, Variety: "Hawke refuses to play Tesla the way he’s popularly imagined: an innocent dreamer," she writes. "His Tesla is stoic and disenchanted, so incapable of humor that he can claim to hear 'the planets greeting each other' and no one thinks it’s a joke." As for the overall film, "if there's a big idea in 'Tesla,' it's hard to see."
  • G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: The movie is not his cup of tea. It's "less a biopic than a mood piece, a rumination of how quiet genius not only can be misunderstood but is often at the whim of the powerful and egocentric," he writes. "It’s intriguing, and I wouldn’t stop anyone from watching it, but for me ... it doesn’t quite transcend its conceit."
(Read more movie review stories.)

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