A Beautiful Mind

3 bone dog

Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Akiva Goldsman – Based on the book by Sylvia Nasar

What makes A Beautiful Mind a beautiful movie are the powerful story upon which it is based and the luminous acting skills of its star Russell Crowe in portraying John Nash, a genius mathematician, whose life was elevated by remarkable revelations and then torn asunder by harrowing delusions. It is a brilliant performance strongly supported by actress Jennifer Connelly’s turn as Nash’s loving wife Alicia.

The story begins at Princeton University in 1947 where John Nash has come from West Virginia for his graduate degree in Mathematics. He is shy yet arrogant, desperate for achievement and recognition and entirely at a loss as to how to accomplish either. He’s the ultimate nerd. Without social skills or focus, Nash wanders the campus looking for just one original idea to set him apart and above the mediocrity. As his life revolves around numbers, Nash believes he can solve any of life’s riddles by just reducing them to a series of numerical equations and analyzing the patterns within. Then one day, as luck would have it, Nash discovers his greatest mathematical moment and his success is all but ensured.

He wins a coveted position at the country’s most prestigious defense lab called Wheeler at the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As part of a funding arrangement, Nash is forced to split his time between important research and teaching graduate studies. It is in his own classroom that he meets the aggressive and beautiful Alicia who manages to snag his interest and turn him into a husband before he can calculate the probability of success.

Soon after, Nash’s life takes another turn, a very dangerous one in which he finds himself descending into paranoid schizophrenia that threatens his marriage, his brilliant career and his life.

During those years between his rise and fall, we meet important characters in Nash’s life: fellow students Sol (Adam Goldberg) and Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas), a high strung roommate Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), his mentor Prof. Helinger (Judd Hirsch), one mysterious and threatening defense department official, William Parcher (Ed Harris) and finally Doctor Rosen (Christopher Plummer). We see a period in which gentlemanly good manners ruled academia at the same time the country was in the midst of the ‘Red Commie’ scare. Through it all, it is Alicia’s love, loyalty and belief in his capacities that helps put Nash back on the path to some sense of sanity.

The film spans almost 50 years and shows his inspiring, long sought recovery which climaxes with his astonishing 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics. All the stuff of a good Hollywood drama, to be sure, despite a goodly number of liberties taken both with Nash’s characterization as well as specifics of his life. One irksome detail is that the film, in its attempt to maintain suspense, never actually explains who was the person ultimately responsible for having Nash committed to a psychiatric facility for testing.

Lotta says: Russell Crowe gives us an immaculate portrayal of a complex individual in a demanding role, convincing as the shy yet egotistical genius and mesmerizing as the vulnerable and beleaguered wimp trying desperately to cope with the enormous responsibility brought on by the bullying agent Parcher. His only failing is a mumbled and murky West Virginia accent, which when mixed with his natural Australian inflections, leaves him occasionally sounding a bit like Winston Churchill. The film, directed by Ron Howard, is a mature look at a mature subject that depicts ingeniously the terrors of schizophrenia. There is great sympathy for the character without the tale being overly sentimental.

Reviewed 12/26/01