The Grinch move on to a “biographical drama” of a schizophrenic Nobel Prize-winning mathematician? They can’t. Sadly, Ron Howard continues with his relatively uninspired stereotypical movie-making techniques in A Beautiful Mind staring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly.
John Nash (played excellently by Russel Crowe) is quickly introduced as a brilliant mind – who doesn’t get along with people. Attending Princeton University, Nash is living with his only friend, Charles (Paul Bettany), as he ditches classes, opting to figure out algorithms for a pigeon flock’s movements; while, constantly trying to come up with his “original idea.” Nash is ridiculed by his fellow classmates, but eventually receives the much sought-after Carnegie Fellowship for his extraordinary economic theory (for which he receives the Nobel Prize almost half a century later) and obtains a prestigious post teaching at MIT and occasionally cracking codes for the Department of Defense. Nash falls in love with one of his students (Jennifer Connelly) and they are soon married. Eventually, Nash’s schizophrenia come to light, and the remainder of the film is spent with Nash and his family (wife Alicia and a son who wasn’t significant enough to receive a name) attempting to cope with the schizophrenia.
Symbols and motifs are added throughout the movie by the writer, Akiva Goldsman, where they either aren’t needed or are in the movie simply for dramatic effect. The movie as a whole seems like it was produced either to win awards or extract the most heart-warming bang for the buck. Nash’s real life has some very shady parts to it, including his arrest for indecent exposure, his failed marriage, and his bisexual experiences. These parts, among others, were given “the Hollywood treatment” and were omitted completely. This is where Goldsman’s often-humorous script fails. As much as I criticize the script, Goldsman also managed to convey the story in a captivating way, for the most part.
When Ron Howard decided to tell the pretty version of Nash’s existence, in this “biography” he also, for some reason, decided to use almost laughable directing techniques. Nash’s troubled world is revealed in Sixth Sense style with imaginary characters and objects almost becoming a running joke towards the conclusion of the movie. Swirling around Nash’s head when he enters a room is one of Howard’s most favorite directing techniques, and also the most nauseating technique used in this film. Howard even stoops low enough to use the changing of the season over one continuous shot in order to portray the passage of time. Such cookie-cutter methods are laughable, if even that.
There are several aspects, however, that seem to save this movie. Russell Crowe delivers an outstanding performance and redeems himself from last year’s Oscar-winning Gladiator bullshit. Crowe’s Southern accent is shameful, but that is a minor distraction. Crowe’s interpretation of Nash is moving, and he manages to fit the role quite well. One particularly well-played scene that made me grimace (but was also exaggerated) was that of the electro-shock therapy. The true horror of this treatment was in the reaction of the family to it. Nash’s wife is played superbly by Jennifer Connelly. Connelly has truly put herself on the map with her impassioned delivery of every line.
A Beautiful Mind was very nicely shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins. Deakins has done and excellent job brining out the beauty of Princeton’s campus. Most shots are quite well done, as there is plenty of eye candy in this movie (in the parts that didn’t involve head-swirling effects, etc.)
Although John Nash’s life was butchered by Akiva Goldsman, and Richie Cunningham needs to go back to the set of Happy Days or read “How to Direct Good Movies For Dummies,” A Beautiful Mind is saved by its lead performances. Easy to digest, due to its shallowness, this movie is mostly enjoyable, if you don’t get sick from the spinning rooms.