I never thought I would willingly watch a movie about math. Frankly, I got quite more than my fill of that in college. Even there I spent more time sleeping than I did engaging in the art of equations. But somehow, director Ron Howard has found a way to do what no college professor ever could… make math interesting.
A Beautiful Mind stars Russell Crowe as genius mathematician John Nash. Based on a true story, Nash is diagnosed as a paranoid-schizophrenic. With the help of his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) he struggles against his madness and wins the Nobel Prize for his truly original theories. Most movies about mental illness generally tend to be less concerned with telling a powerful story, than they are in garnering rivers of tears. Sickly forced sweetness and artificial sadness are not the order of the day in the stunning story of John Nash.
A Beautiful Mind is not some sort of Forest Gump meets Einstein outing. John Nash, despite his eccentricities and lack of tact, is an engaging and intelligent character. Nor is it some kind of contrived bit of romance, where boy meets girl, girl saves boy’s soul. At its heart, A Beautiful Mind IS a romance, but one born out of the depth of deep lasting relationships and realistic, true love.
This a journey of discovery, magic, and heart carried along on the wings of dark personal tragedy. The film is gripping and emotional, but without any of the forceful fanfare of so many modern movies. In fact, it’s really quite low-key in tone throughout. Really, the viewer’s deep investment in Beautiful Mind’s characters only sneaks up on you when your back is turned. Ron Howard’s film grabs your heart when you aren’t looking and leaves you gasping and crying for characters you didn’t know you loved.
This is a cast firing on all cylinders with truly Oscar winning performances. John Nash couldn’t possibly be further from Crowe’s pumped up Maximus from last year’s dubious Oscar winner Gladiator. But Crowe is superb and convincing. There is little that one could ask from him here that hasn’t already been delivered. Connelly, to no one’s surprise, shines just as brightly as Alicia Nash as she does in ANY role she’s given.
Strangely enough, this really is a film centered around math. Why didn’t it put me to sleep? I had a bad time keeping my head off my desk in dear old Mrs. Kemp’s high school Algebra class. In college, Calculus sent me screaming. But for A Beautiful Mind, I spent hours willingly watching a mathematician work. In fact, some of the most enjoyable and singular moments of the film are spent watching Nash SOLVE PROBLEMS! Howard’s style is thrilling and entertaining. Nash’s work is engrossing, but only because Howard makes it so.
Love story, or math problem, A Beautiful Mind is without a doubt one of the finest, most genuine films of 2001.