A Beautiful Mind Review
By Joe Lozito
The life of Nobel Prize winning paranoid-schizophrenic mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr. is adapted by Akiva Goldsman from the book by Sylvia Nasar into one of those sensitive Hollywood Oscar contenders that always come out at the end of the year. Thankfully, this one is proof that there is still life in that genre. Though his accomplishments are never made clear - it is simply said, "this flies in the face of 150 years of economic theory" - the Nash character played by Russell Crowe is given enough chances to prove his brilliance and awkwardness. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Nash comes across as quite fallible in the film despite his attempts at perfection. His character in the film is as unpredictable as I would expect the real Nash to be.
Thankfully, the film itself also steers almost entirely clear of the standard Hollywood Disease-'ploitation films; only at certain moments does the film threaten to ask for too many tears or suspensions of disbelief. Director Ron Howard, shaking off the grade-school pretensions of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Far and Away", allows the story to flow organically from one scene to another. Nash's sickness manifests itself naturally and Mr. Howard uses only subtle flourishes to punctuate Mr. Crowe's masterful performance (unfortunately, the same cannot be said for James Horner's predictably bombastic score).
Mr. Crowe is supported by what can only be called a career-making performance from Jennifer Connelly as Nash's unbelievably patient wife Alicia. Though the stunning Ms. Connelly has been working in films since the early 80s, only here does she actually get a chance to display her range. In a role that any actress would die for, she is a refreshing addition to the film and her scenes with Mr. Crowe are the film's highlight. Also providing a stable foundation for the film are the always reliable Ed Harris and Christopher Plummer.
But this is Russell Crowe's movie all the way. As he did in "The Insider", Mr. Crowe seems to create the character of John Forbes Nash, Jr. from the inside out. It is only at the end of the film that you really see the work that Mr. Crowe has obviously done in preparation for his role. Each physical tick manifests itself gradually over the 40-some years that the film spans. By the film's end, as Mr. Crowe's Nash walks the Princeton campus, you understand what's behind each step the character takes. It's easily Oscar-caliber work. Mr. Crowe may be preparing to "pull a Tom Hanks" at this year's Academy Awards and he deserves it. This is the work that it was clear he was capable of from "LA Confidential" and "The Insider". We'll forgive him "Proof of Life".
While the John Nash that is portrayed in the film is altered to the point of revisionism (no where are the marriage and subsequent abandoning of his first wife and child or his rumored homosexual trysts mentioned), the film should be critiqued based on its own merits. As such, it works. Beautifully.