Directed By: Ron Howard
Written By: Sylvia Nasar (book), Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Judd Hirsh, Christopher Plummer
Rated: PG-13 (Violence and Sexuality)
Running Time: 134 Min.
With A Beautiful Mind, director Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe invite us to see the world through the eyes of a genius. Russell Crowe plays John Nash, a brilliant but psychologically disturbed mathematician, who goes from searching for a truly original idea at Princeton to searching for Communist conspiracies against the U.S. Government.
While based on some of the true events surrounding Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash, A Beautiful Mind is by no means a biography of his life. In fact, the film plays much like a Hollywood version of Aronofsky's Pi, mixed with plot twists from The Sixth Sense. The results are very entertaining, though not quite as compelling as they first may seem to be. A Beautiful Mind has been expertly crafted to do two things; please a wide audience and win many awards. I have no doubt that it will do both!
Russell Crowe's performance as Nash is almost certain to win him the Oscar again this year. The fact that the Academy always seems to award characters of the 'troubled social outcast' variety doesn't hurt his chances, but his performance is indeed worthy of the honor. Jennifer Connelly also gives a very strong performance as Nash's wife, Alicia, which puts her in the running for Best Supporting Actress as well. My favorite performance, which, due to its comedic overtones will most likely be completely ignored by the Academy, was by Paul Bettany as Charles, Nash's omnipresent Princeston roommate.
As for directing, Ron Howard returns to his pre-Grinch sensibilities and creates his finest work to date. Howard uses subtle visual cues and an intimate approach to lighting and camerawork throughout the film, which, along with Crowe's performance, gives the audience wonderful insight into the workings of Nash's brilliantly flawed mind, more insight than could ever be revealed through dialogue alone. Also, Howard deftly walks the tonal line between comedy and drama, as he had with the films Apollo 13 and Far & Away, without ever overshadowing the importance or emotional impact of the characters themselves. The results are sure to land Ron Howard a well deserved nomination for Best Director.
My only misgiving concerning A Beautiful Mind is that the movie shows only a small aspect of Nash's life, giving an inaccurate impression of the man's true emotional state. While A Beautiful Mind portrays Nash as brilliant, complex and heroic, my own understanding of his life leads me toward the more likely phrase, 'a danger to himself and others'. The seriousness of Nash's mental condition is touched upon in the movie, but the reactions of others toward it are simplistic and do not always ring true. Since the events in this movie were only 'inspired' by events in Nash's life, then perhaps the story should have been fictionalized further, including not using the name of John Nash. However, as stated above, this story is a definite crowd pleaser just as it is. To include the more seamy aspects of Nash's troubled genius would only get in the way of the film's uplifting message.
So, for those who doubted Russell Crowe's acting abilities, for those who thought director Ron Howard had taken an artistic backstep with The Grinch, and for those who had come to believe that 2001 would not yield a single film worthy of the Academy, I have three words: A Beautiful Mind.