Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Beautiful Mind

By s. Tuesday, February 14, 2012 , , , , , , , ,
72/100 (135 min, 2001)
Plot: After a brilliant but asocial mathematician accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn to the nightmarish.
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Sylvia Nasar (book)
Stars: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly

The mysterious equations of life

"I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible."

"A Beautiful Mind", Academy Award winner for Best Picture was also named one of "The 20 Most Overrated Movies Of All Time" by Premiere magazine - that situation actually represents the true nature of the film - it has amazing moments only to have completely mediocre, bland and unnecessary scenes following them. I always considered the movie to be very overpraised,  but there are parts of the film that are truly able to move the audience - mostly because of wonderful performances and gripping story the movie is based on. Still, I will always find the fact that "A Beautiful Mind" won over "Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring" and "Moulin Rouge!" to be one of the Academy's worst mistakes.

Inspired by life of John Nash, the movie tells a story of brilliant mathematician who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Nash is a typical shy outsider - very focused and fascinated by his work, mocked by others who are jealous of his brilliance and suspect he will achieve great things. During one of the lectures he gives on University he meets Alicia, beautiful girl who reaches out to him. Two of them fall in love and seemingly everything is looking good for Nash, who by then made progress in developing his revolutionary game theory. But soon Alicia and John will come to face life altering difficulties.
Nash's delusions, caused by his illness nobody knew of for a very long time. lead him to believe he is doing secret work for the government, which starts to influence his private and professional life. He is falling deeper and deeper into his illness, to Alicia's horror. People around Nash didn't realize that he was ill - they just assumed he was bizarre. The movie's chilling scenes are those where Alicia sees the extent of the abyss of madness her husband has fallen into including the most memorable of them - when Nash is giving a  bath to their child as she sees the evidences of his relapse into schizophrenia into old shed he used as his work space.

The movie is at its best when it shows Nash and Alicia's struggle with his illness - failed attempts at helping him, Alicia convincing him some of the things he sees are not real and the occasions when despite his condition he is able to function and even teach others. There are several scenes here that were clearly included to move the audience - some of them, as the one where Nash is given other professors' pens as the sign of the respect, work. Others, mainly the incredibly cheesy scene Nash is making shapes out of the stars for Alicia, don't. But there are hidden gems here - when because of great honestly of actors and occasionally beautiful writing certain scenes have incredible power - Alicia letting Nash know she will stand by him, when she holds his hand to her heart and says that what they feel, the bond between them, is real.
Unfortunately, "A Beautiful Mind" is riddled with unnecessary scenes straight from spy movies - the movie was thrilling enough just by showing Nash is not able to trust himself and he may pose danger to the others. All the chase scenes, secret meetings and Ed Harris's pointless character really don't add much to the movie and worst of all - make the film very chaotic and messy. It constantly changes genres from drama to thriller, and again and again. In the effect there are scenes when we are watching very good movie about a man dealing with his brilliance and illness and in the others we see very mediocre thriller.

The reason for movie's acclaim lies mostly in the beautifully played roles of Nash and Alicia. Crowe's delivers impressive performance - he completely disappears in Nash's character, mimicking his behaviour, adding a lot of characteristic gestures and with his work portraying true angst of a person who is helpless in the situation he finds himself in. Awarded with Oscar for her performance of Alicia, Jennifer Connelly delivers nuanced work of a woman, who despite feeling as helpless as her husband must find the strength within, in order to help him and stand by his side. The film's most heart wrenching moment occurs where the last thread of intimacy between the couple is severed - because of Nash's medication he is unable to satisfy his wife, who at that point only wants to feel his closeness, as she is unable to communicate with him in any other way. Alicia walks into the bathroom, grabs the glass and with anguished scream, throws it straight into the mirror.
The film is greatly aided with James Horner's gorgeous score which is centered around two themes - love and danger. The first one is enough to move you and when it accompanies film's most triumphant moments it makes them unforgettable. The second greatly increases the tension of the scenes - without the music, the CIA scenes would be completely bland.

With all it flaws "A Beautiful Mind" because of its wonderful performances, the original score and many moving and memorable moments manages to be a good movie. But in more capable hands the material could have been so much more - Ron Howard is very good when he has just one genre to deal with - his "Frost Nixon" is one of my all time favorites and ironically - when all the CIA scenes from "A Beautiful Mind" come to mind - the movie that proves that you can create incredible tension just by having well written characters and dialogues. All you need to do is just point the camera on the actors and scream "action!".


  1. I am with you. I loved the performances that Crowe and Connelly turn out. But was lacking in other areas

    And let's face it Connelly is very easy on the eye.... :-)

    Beautiful write up for a Beautiful mind....

    See what I did there?

  2. Didn't really deserve Best Picture but I still thought it was a very good flick that showed Howard in top-form blending reality with fantasy. Good review. Connelly definitely deserved that Oscar though.

  3. I agree, Connelly was amazing, the character wasn't that well written but she made wonders with it.

  4. Good write up. I agree that Fellowship of the Ring should have won.

    As for Connelly, she did a fine job, but I feel that she was really winning for her performance the previous year in Requiem for a Dream - which hadn't even been nominated. Sometimes the Oscars are one movie behind when handing out awards. (See also Jeremy Irons win for Reversal of Fortune. He even thanked his Dead Ringers director because he knew that was the role he was really winning it for.)

    1. Exactly. And sometimes they give the award too soon like to Clooney for Syriana, I think he was more deserving in Up in the Air and especially in Michael Clayton.

  5. Great review! I really like these types of films where things aren't what they seem. I really liked the way it ended, with the realization that he still sees the people, but just kind of ignores them now.

    1. Yeah, that part of the movie which was straight up about him dealing with his delusions was really vey well made.