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A Beautiful Mind (2002)

A Beautiful Mind
"Gladiator? My guess is yes!"

Starring:

Russel Crowe
Jennifer Connelly

Released By:

Universal Studios

Released In:

2002

Rated:

PG-13

Reviewed By:

Adam Mast

Grade:

A-

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Ron Howard has often been one of my favorite film makers. Sure, the guy has seen his share of misfires (see Gung Ho or last year's less than impressive take on the Grinch), but when he's at the top of his game (see The Paper, Parenthood, Apollo 13 etc.), his movies can be big winners. Such is the case with A Beautiful Mind, an extremely creative effort that finds the director at his very best. This is the true story of John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe), a genius mathematician that would go on to win the Nobel Prize in the 90's. Starting with his days at Princeton University, A Beautiful Mind deftly shows how this man struggled with his genius and a long bout with schizophrenia. The film's major focus involves he and his wife (Jennifer Connelly) and their determination to help Forbes with his seemingly unsolvable problem.

Crowe is fantastic here, showing what a talented force he can be. Although my favorite Crowe performance remains his spectacular turn in The Insider, this ranks right up there. This is not only a beautifully skilled physical performance, but a deeply complex one as well. Connelly is also spectacular as Forbes' sympathetic wife, a woman that would never leave her man's side. From her nostalgic turn in The Rocketeer, to her gut wrenchingly realistic heroin addict in Requiem For a Dream, this terrific actress is on the verge of stardom. A Beautiful Mind also benefits from fantastic supporting players, most notably Paul Bettany (A Knight's Tale) as Forbes' well spoken room mate and Ed Harris as a mysterious government official.

Ron Howard has found an extremely creative and effective way to get inside Forbes' head so the audience can understand the pain and confusion that this man went through. While at times I was reminded of Penny Marshall's Awakenings and even the thriller The Sixth Sense, A Beautiful Mind is ultimately an elegant and unique movie experience. I thank the movie gods that this film's secrets have not been given away in the trailers, a problem that is quite common, especially in Ron Howard pictures (remember that dreadful Ransom preview that gave away one of the movies only key plot points?)

If I have a problem with A Beautiful Mind, it's in the screenplay by Akiva Goldsman (a man responsible for such epics as Batman and Robin and Lost in Space). While this is easily his strongest effort, I had reservations with it. There are a couple of moments that are extremely heavy handed, and while Forbes is an extremely interesting subject, there were many sides to this man that were left out of the story. The dialogue and mathematical terminology were all realistic, but sometimes the pacing was clumsy, particularly where the Crowe/Connelly courtship is concerned. I think the early moments in their relationship should have been developed a bit. I am, of course, being a little too critical because I've never been a fan of Goldsman's work. This is a major step up for the screenwriter.

Aside from a couple of overly sentimental moments and some dreadful make up effects, I think A Beautiful Mind is one of Ron Howard's strongest and most restrained works. It's a thriller, a mystery, and a love story all rolled into one, and it's so expertly acted and directed that you can easily forgive it for it's very few shortcomings. This is one of the best movies of the year.

:: zBoneman.com Reader Comments ::

Jackson Wallace

Jackson Wallace

I still can't believe that this film got the best-picture Oscar. Gladiator was a better movie and along with Forgiven I consider these 3 to be the worst movies to win best picture awards since 1970. I'm leaving Chicago out of this roster, because I'm a drama major and have a bit of a soft spot for that sort of stuff. Still it was not a better film than The Two Towers.

Adam

Adam

To the last post. I think A Beautiful Mind is absolutely spellbinding. It's easily one of Ron Howard's best and Russell Crowe's performance is astonishing. Gladiator was definitely less worthy of the best picture honor in my opinion and so was Chicago for that matter. I liked the musical, but it pales in comparison to Moulin Rouge and certainly it had nothing on some of the other nominees that particular year (most notably The Pianist). I really think A Beautiful Mind gets a bad rap. It was expertly crafted. It wasn't the best movie of it's year, but for me, it was certainly in the top 10.

JJ

JJ

I preferred Russell Crowes other Oscar nominated film, Gladiator - or as I call it A Beautiful Body.

James

James

John Nash is a mathematical genius and has been accepted into one of the top graduate schools in the country, Princeton. There the top minds of the late 1940's are all vying to make a name for themselves as the world of mathematics has gained some fame because of the victory in the war only a few years gone by. But John Nash does not want to be like the other students just churning out ideas and papers on other peoples work he wants to come up with the an original idea that is all his. In an effort to find this idea he never attends classes and spends all his time devoted to his search. About to fail out of school John does find his original idea that gains him a certain level of notoriety. His astonishing discovery so early in his career brings him to the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash will soon find himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery once he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His schizophrenia is advanced enough that he sees other people and he believes he is part of a secret government agency that is breaking Soviet codes that are being sent through magazines. His belief of this not only makes him a danger to himself but to other as well as he can never be certain what is real and what is in his mind. It is these delusions that can ruin his life and possibly have him locked away forever but with the love of a beautiful women he meets and marries John will go on a journey to find himself once more and defeat the demons in his life.

Based on a true story the movie skips over some of the more intense and even embarrassing moments in the life of John Nash. But the story basically remains in tact about a man who once stood on the heights of success and because of a sickness that he cannot help finds himself at the bottom trying to fight his way back up. It is a touching story and brings even more poignancy for the sheer fact that is all based on the true events and life of a very courageous man that overcame all obstacles to succeed in life. Russell Crowe's performance was even better than in last years gladiator as he delves into a world of madness and shows that he truly does have great acting skills. His portrayal of Nash is one of those performances we will always remember and an Oscar contending acting brilliance. Jennifer Connelly who plays John Nash's wife also puts in an incredible job as she must struggle with what his illness means for both of them as she considers leaving him at times. In real life she did leave him for awhile but the movie does show this allowing for her to be the strong partner that John eventually derives all his strength from. It is hard to not be moved by this film as it shows all the things that you have to love in a drama and a story about someone who overcomes all the odds to win a very personal battle.

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