A battling, brilliant underdog
IT MAY BE TITLED GENIUS, but National Geographic’s biographical series on Albert Einstein does not render him a hero. His flaws are laid out from the very first moment he appears on screen – pants down and, ahem, smudging the chalk on a blackboard with his young lover.
That’s not to say that the show makes Einstein – played with enormous grace by Australia’s Geoffrey Rush – totally unlikeable.
As the series flicks from his accomplished celebrity during the rise of Nazism to his headstrong youth, he emerges as a sympathetic character, a battling, brilliant underdog.
We learn that not all find his insatiable curiosity endearing. His endless questioning, undeterred ambition and doubts regarding long accepted science make him a difficult student and land him poor references for jobs in academia. Instead, he works long days as a patent clerk, writing science papers in his spare time.
Perhaps most telling is the expositionladen phrase thrown at Einstein from his second wife, Elsa (Emily Watson) in the first episode: “For a man who is an expert on the universe, you don’t know the first thing about people, do you?”
The series, based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling 2007 book Einstein: His Life and Universe, is visually stunning, starkly emotive and doesn’t short-change viewers in character depth, giving a loud personality to that famous face we so often see in black-and-white pictures.
Genius is fashioned by multiple directors, including Oscar-winner Ron Howard, and airs on the National Geographic Channel.