Period film: I.Q. (1994)

Catherine Boyd (Meg Ryan) is an intelligent, educated woman who wants nothing more than for her intelligent, educated boyfriend James Moreland (Stephen Fry) to finally marry and start a family with her.

When Catherine and James run into car trouble one day, they’re assisted by an auto mechanic named Edward Walters (Tim Robbins), who falls in love with Catherine at first sight.

Unfortunately for poor Edward, Catherine is completely unwilling to look his way. Only the men of highest intelligence and status can get her attention, because she wants to be sure she’ll have super-smart babies.


But Ed has one thing working in his favor: Catherine’s uncle likes him and is willing to scheme with him to make Catherine change her tune. And that uncle is none other than Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau).

I.Q. is a period romance set in the 1950s, in the months before Albert Einstein’s death. Don’t let Einstein’s impending “long journey” fool you, though: this film is pure comedy, focusing on a lively portrayl of Einstein and his pals rather than focusing on his demise.

Fred Schepisi (Roxanne) directs a screenplay by Andy Breckman (Rat Race) and Michael Leeson (The War of the Roses), based on a story by Breckman.

There’s a lot to love about I.Q., and the first thing that comes to mind as a stand-out element of the film is its cast. Tim Robbins and Walter Matthau could not have been more perfectly cast than they were in this film.

I’m 99.9% sure Tim Robbins was created solely to appear in period films, because they’re always my favorites from his filmography. He makes a highly believable mid-20th century man. (Another favorite of his films is The Hudsucker Proxy, which takes place in the late ’50s.)

As for Matthau, he’s so completely lovable as Einstein. The character is written in a very fun way and Matthau brings him to life in such a way that you can’t help but want to hang out with him. He brings a mischievous and witty brand of energy to the character, which is a whole lot of fun to watch.

The Meg Ryan/Tim Robbins romance is sweet enough to work for the film, but the friendship that grows between Ed and Einstein is even nicer to watch. The whole cast has really great chemistry, which definitely increases the charm factor in both the platonic and romantic relationships (save that of Catherine and her stuffy beau James, of course).

Visually, I.Q. doesn’t look completely authentic to the period. Meg Ryan often looks like she would in any ’90s film, but with slightly more tailored clothes. There are some anachronisms as well, but the film has such a wonderful charm to it and such great lead performances that most of these errors are forgivable.

Though not a spot-on portrayal of the 1950s or of Albert Einstein himself, I.Q. is such a light and fun watch that it can be enjoyed regardless of its lapses in accuracy. It’s a unique, slightly quirky romantic comedy that delivers in both laughs and “aww” moments. The score: 4/5

9 thoughts on “Period film: I.Q. (1994)

  1. I remember wanting to see it solely on the basis of the concept; it seemed like such a fun idea, and for the most part, it followed through on that. I wish more of these types of films were made today…sweet little romance comedies with A-level participants that don’t have to resort to R-rated tactics to deliver humor. And yes, your review makes me want to see it again.

    And look at you with your new ‘Coming Soon’ box! Or has it been there forever, and I’ve just been blind and missed it?


    1. I completely agree! I’d love to see more stuff like this getting released. I barely see new release comedies anymore (unless I tag along with family or an actor I’m a fan of is involved). The “vulgarity sells” formula has gotten so stale to me. Luckily I have 85-ish years of sweeter comedies to turn to for enjoyment while avoiding the stuff that’s come out in the past few years, haha.

      The ‘Coming Soon’ section is brand new, so you haven’t been blind. I added it last weekend. It’ll be disappearing as soon as the first R&R post for I Dream of Jeannie is up, though, because I don’t have any new blog series planned other than that one!


      1. That’s funny…I just mentioned the lack of good comedy films being put out today, in the comment I made for ‘I.Q.’…and then I read your thoughts above, also on the current state of comedies, and yes, it looks like we agree wholeheartedly on that particular topic!

        Love that photo for I Dream of Jeannie, by the way. So simple, yet so hilarious.


        1. It’s a great photo! Oddly enough, it was one of the only publicity shots I could find that they were both in. Admittedly, my search was kind of limited (I got to sleepy so I just browsed a few pages of Google Images) but almost everything I found was of Barbara Eden alone. It would be blasphemous to leave Major Nelson out of the banner, so I’m glad I stumbled upon that one haha.


  2. Oops, I actually WAS commenting on the ‘I.Q.’ post, when I thought I was commenting on your ‘Step On It’ review. I’m typing too fast between two posts…I need to slow down and pay attention to what I’m doing!


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