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   A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) 

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CAST
Russell Crowe
Jennifer Connelly
Ed Harris
Christopher Plummer
Paul Bettany
Adam Goldberg
Josh Lucas
Vivien Cardone
Anthony Rapp
Judd Hirsch

DIRECTED BY
Ron Howard

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack



True Story




Time: 134 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Suspense

Won Academy Awards for Supporting Actress, Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Nominations for Best Actor, Film Editing, Score and Makeup.


Russell Crowe's spellbinding performance as Nobel Prize winner John Nash guarantees him a permanent place amongst the greatest actors of our time. His portrayal as a mathematical genius with a brilliant, yet tortured mind grabs onto your heart from the first frame and refuses to let go. The film covers the highs and lows of Nash's career and marriage, as he tries to succeed at both despite being a paranoid schizophrenic. The way Howard visually integrates Nash's inner world and reality is powerful and restrained, allowing us to connect with him even though we know something is terribly wrong. There's an otherworldliness to the tale that makes it more interesting than a film about a math professor should be. His illness is a double-edged sword. It almost destroys him, yet without it, his theories would not exist and we assuredly would not be watching a movie about his life.

From his first day at Princeton, it's clear that John Nash marches to the beat of his own drummer. His classmates respect him for getting there, but his abrasive and odd personality keeps them at arms length. Instead of wasting his time in class, he spends his time trying to come up with the original idea that will distinguish him from his peers. It's all he can think about. If it wasn't for his roommate Charles (Bettany), he'd forget to have any fun at all. Then, one night, while out drinking with his classmates, he discovers his theory. It takes months to refine, but it wins him the most coveted assignment available – working for MIT. Nash is on track to become one of the most original thinkers in his field. Though initially excited, Nash soon becomes bored with the research/teaching sector. He wants to use his brain power for a higher purpose. That burning desire changes his life forever.


"There has to be a mathematical explanation for how bad that tie is."

Not only is he secretly recruited as a code breaker by the government in the war against Communism, but he falls in love with a beautiful and intelligent student. Before meeting Alicia (Connelly), John's success rate with women was zero. She's intrigued by his quirky genius and can't resist his unusual proposal. It's not long before they tie the knot and start a family. What she doesn't know, is that he's hiding a dark secret that's about to break their world apart. One far more dangerous than spies and nuclear war. The discovery of his mental illness is an intense blow, shattering everything you previously held true about this world. We have been living in Nash's mind, where some things are real and others figments of his disease. From this point on, we share his delusions as he tries to retain his gift for theoretical thought while controlling his illness with nothing but his own willpower. He succeeds in regaining his life, though is never "cured", which keeps the story grounded in reality.

The final transition from "that crazy professor" to Nobel Prize winner is a bit abrupt, but ultimately satisfying. Once Nash has a handle on his disease there's only so much that can be shown without boring the audience. There have been complaints that the film doesn't tell the whole story about his life. That it leaves out the more sordid details. Well, this isn't a documentary. If you want the full story, read the book. The main purpose of the tale is to show how he overcame his illness. How he was able to not only be productive again, but also become a leader in his field. It gives a peek into the world of schizophrenia that is realistic and powerful. I was glued to my seat in anticipation of where the film was taking me. What the film neglects to effectively expound on is why Nash was considered so brilliant. His theory, which we're told changed the face of world economics, is touched upon, but never fully explained. I might not have understood it, but I wanted to know more. All we see of his brilliance is the quirkiness. Without the hard proof, we're left to wonder why his mind is so special.

The other fairly large hole looming in the plot is how his illness could have escaped the notice of so many supposedly intelligent people. The understanding and diagnosis of mental illness was not as pervasive in the 40s and 50s as it is today, but grown men with invisible friends can't have been considered normal, no matter what the decade. Despite these issues, this is, at least in my opinion, the best film Ron Howard has ever made. A visual feast for the eyes, that captures time, place and imagination. The performances are subtle, heartfelt and honest with no showboating to be seen. One look into Jennifer Connelly's troubled eyes illuminates all the frustration and love she feels for the man and life she's unable to leave. It's her best role to date. The fact that they were able to vividly recreate Nash's inner world without alienating the audience is a feat in itself. It's rare to find a mentally ill character that you can relate to and respect, never mind one who's a hero. A BEAUTIFUL MIND is probably not the most accurate portrayal of paranoid schizophrenia, but it is a film that changes your perception of those coping with it. A gripping, though-provoking, entertaining film. A rare treat these days.


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