Directed by : Ron Howard
Written by : Akiva Goldsman
Starring : Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly
Very loosely based on Sylvia Nasar’s (“a highly stylized dramatization rather than a literal retelling”) thoroughly researched biography of Mathematical genius, paranoid schizophrenic and Nobel Prize winner (for Economics) John Forbes Nash Jr., director Howard uses usual cinematic tools of conflated characters and incidents and some other more unusual methods of dramatization.
The story begins conventionally in 1947 in the academic surrounds of Princeton University and we see immediately that while regarded already by his peers as a serious sub-genius mathematician graduate student we are aware that there is something a bit off about John Nash (Crowe). At first this gaucheness seems related to his arrival from some unfancied West Virginian school but it soon becomes clear that the abrupt and abrasive Mr. Nash is something of an asocial being in all situations conveyed principally by his discomfort with his own body, his ill fitting suits and shuffling gait; this all shorthand for ‘eccentric genius’ in Hollywood speak.
Nash is driven by an overriding desire to come up with an original idea and this obsession serves only to further isolate him and increase his frustration. Eventually Nash does come up with a theory that does mark him out as a truly original thinker and it is this theory that would earn him the Nobel Prize 47 years later; he happens on this revolutionary theory in the unlikely surrounds of a campus bar while attempting to set himself and his buddies up with some girls.
This breakthrough gets him a position in MIT (along with two colleagues) as something of a genius code breaker and also brings him to the attention of the Pentagon who wish to enlist him in the fight against the Red Menace. Here, his contact is a shadowy CIA (doh!) figure and from hereon it is unclear where his code breaking work ends and his obsessive paranoia begins. While at MIT he also meets and marries one of his students Alicia (Connelly) who is best placed to witness this blurring of the lines.
Suffice to say that Howard uses a dramatic device (redolent of more recent movies) here to give us a subjective impression of Nash’s schizophrenia which unfortunately reduces this terrible illness to a cinematic trick, erodes our empathy with the support characters and cheats us of a clear intellectual perspective on the illness; the key area of Nash’s accommodation of his illness is woefully undeveloped.
This plot device in pursuit of cheap thrills unfortunately weakens the roles of everybody apart from the husband and wife leads; Crowe while suffering from the usual Hollywood tics (Shine, Rainman) associated with mental illness gives a convincing and witty performance (though the filmmakers have airbrushed out the more unsavoury aspects of Nash) and Connelly is a refreshing emotional antidote to her insular on screen husband. While plaudits must go to all concerned for attempting such an unheralded subject it is difficult not to see Beautiful Mind as an opportunity lost. This movie won 4 Oscars. What you think about this movie. Do you really enjoy this movie. Share your thoughts in comments.
MoviesCrunch Rating – 7/10