A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001) Rating: 10/10
A Beautiful Mind's greatest achievement, in my humble opinion, is the way it makes schizophrenia accessible to "sane" people. The general public knows schizophrenics tend to talk to themselves, repeat certain actions and do things generally at odds with the norm. But why? It's nearly impossible for a "sane" individual to understand why this happens...and more importantly, what that feels like. Without this essential empathy, many people become frustrated with the mentally ill, asking why patients can't pull themselves together and just bear up. We express this same impatience with the criminally insane who act upon delusions with disastrous results. It is incomprehensible.
A Beautiful Mind does all it can to change that, and it succeeds. Unless you are familiar with John Nash's story, you probably won't guess he's schizophrenic until part-way into the movie. He's eccentric, abrupt, and highly intelligent, but doesn't seem crazy. His delusions are as real as reality to Nash, and likewise, they are real to the audience, who cannot tell the difference between truth and delusion.
Incidentally, I came across a review from a "professional critic" who blasted A Beautiful Mind for including "all that spying stuff that had nothing to do with Nash's work that was thrown in for Hollywood thrill." I feel bad for that chap, since he missed the entire point of the film. But that just proves Ron Howard's genius in creating a picture of insanity indistinguishable from reality.
There are some truly shocking moments in A Beautiful Mind. When Alicia finds her husband's secret cache of newspaper clippings behind their house, I was eerily reminded of Jack Nicholson's wife in The Shining discovering his endless, typewritten pages of the same phrase. The scene that follows, culminating with Nash's realization that his delusions are indeed a false reality is brilliant. In a moment, remembering Marcee, Nash has a flash of insight, and he finally accepts his illness -- ironically, through his intellect. When Nash imagines that someone is going to harm Alicia, he lunges at her -- and only through his eyes do we see how a seemingly senseless act of violence is a gesture of love, filtered through the smog of delusion.
Now my take on the acting: Superb in every sense of the word. Russell Crowe is incredible. I can't stress that enough. There's never any question about the authenticity of his character. Crowe doesn't rely on his elaborate makeup to age Nash -- his walk, words, and voice do that elegantly in the movie's end. Crowe will get at least another Oscar nomination out of this one. And, he better win. Jennifer Connelly is amazing as well. And when Crowe and Connelly are put together, extraordinary chemistry erupts, they just gel together, they really belong with one another. Some people have had problems with the romance part of the movie, saying that the way John and Alicia even started seeing each other wasn't very realistic and why Alicia would stay with John after he becomes distant. But, I think that maybe it started out as just a crush, you know, and the math question she showed him was just her excuse for going to his office and she already knew she was going to ask him out before hand. Maybe she's just attracted to the kind of person Nash is? Who knows? A lot of people are attracted to the "weirdest" things sometimes. The crush took over the fact that he sort of insulted her work and she still asked him anyway. When you're around someone you like so much you can't help but be fooled by them. I can't really explain it, but I
can understand why she still asked him to dinner. And I guess if you love someone as much as Alicia loved John, then you would stick with them through anything. Even how distant he became, she still stuck with him.
Moving on, I think Ed Harris is, as always, great. Harris continues to prove that, simply because he's flawless. With delusions like these, no wonder Nash was torn between treatment and "spying."
Simply put, A Beautiful Mind is a film which extends far beyond the 2 hours and 15 minutes that you will spend viewing it in the theater. The characters continued to haunt me after the movie (and still do), thanks to the Oscar-inducing performances by Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and all of the supporting players. They are not merely acting, yet are transformed into the characters, leaving no trace of a line between their part and reality.
Of course a film is only as good as a screenplay would allow, and the story contained within is written in a way that compliments everything that is truly great about A Beautiful Mind. Ron Howard contributes truly inspiring work to this film, and I hope that the critics remember him when awards are being given out.
All I can tell you now is that if you're looking for an emotionally-charged movie that will make you cry, but still filters in some very funny moments as to lighten things up every now and then, with near perfect acting, cinematography, directing, editing and a screenplay which will cause the story of John Nash to inspire you, then consider A Beautiful Mind.
I hope a lot of people see this film. Not just because Russell Crowe is a hunk or because it's a Ron Howard piece, but because you will learn something important. You will learn why compassion is an absolute must when dealing with the mentally ill. You won't glare at the next person you see muttering to themselves. And when someone you love is dealing with a disorder, be it schizophrenia or depression, you won't ask them to "pull themselves together." You will understand why they need your love -- because they are just as confused as you are.
In closing, if Russell Crowe isn't awarded the Best Actor Oscar this year, then my faith in movies and its rewards system will be seriously tarnished.