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A Beautiful Mind

Starring Russell Crowe and Ed Harris; Jennifer Connelly and Christopher Plummer
Written by Akiva Goldsman
Directed by Ron Howard

IN SHORT: Even with some flaws, Best of the Year #4. [Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence. 129 minutes]

Tell us if this sounds far fetched to you: One brilliant mathematician goes utterly out of his mind and still manages to calm his ghosts well enough to win the Nobel Prize. Of course it sounds far fetched. Real life always does, even if the story is kneaded enough that the real life subject can give the film a thumbs up even as he states that "it isn't me on screen" (as reported in the New York Times). It doesn't matter to us. We're familiar with Hollywood having its way with real life. We're also familiar with the career of director Ron Howard, who delivers the kind of heartwarming, tear to the eye flick that he always does.

A Beautiful Mind is also a great example of how great performances, here provided by stars Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, can smooth over the occasional bumps in the script, which is the case here. Covering a period from 1947 to 1994 is a massive task and, even with subtitles telling us where and when we were in the story, we found ourselves at a loss on several occasions. Its subject a genius mathematician, John Nash (Crowe), a phenom of a grad student at Princeton who went on to do government work so highly classified that it alienated him from his loving wife Alicia (Connelly). Considering that Nash is so introverted that his one time student had to pursue him, locking out the one person who loves you is not the most brilliant of ideas. While classmates Sol and Bender (Adam Goldberg and Anthony Rapp) go on to work with Nash at MIT's Wheeler Lab, his closest friend is his roommate Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who comes and goes as is necessary to keep the story moving.

We won't reveal the details of that Top Secret government job, which are revealed for the first time in the movie, because the work was of such a high level of importance that the Government, secrecy fiends that they pretend to be, would probably take one look at the events described in this movie and disavow all knowledge. Suffice it to say that the McCarthy Commie witch hunt Era was not a good time to be working for the Government, even if you were locked in a Pentagon safe room. Russian spies were everywhere. Even our side had its men in black, represented here as Agent Parcher (Ed Harris). Not his real name, obviously. The Russians had their men in black, too, but what no one knew was that the paranoia of the times only inflamed the growing paranoid schizophrenia that Nash had been carrying for years. When a psychiatrist named Rosen (Christopher Plummer) comes calling unexpectedly, the meltdown is total and complete. White suit. Funny farm. The whole nine yards.

We are not lying to you when we say that everything you've just read, except the bit about great performances, is an utter lie. Paranoia is like that. The story shown in the film is too good to reveal what is or isn't real.

Unless, of course, we're totally into the spirit of the film and are lying about lying. It's December Oscar wannabe time and we're just too tired to ignore the occasional need for silliness. Which isn't to say this film is silly. The nuthouse part is God's honest truth and disturbing as anything you can imagine. How Nash applies himself to overcome his raging schizo personality and return to the "real" world is the back end of the story. Words alone cannot tell the tale, which is why Howard's visual structure for the film, credit for which he shares with Goldsman, coupled with Crowe's extraordinary performance is exceptionally clever and emotionally touching.

Matching Crowe is the lovely Jennifer Connelly, who brings sparks to the screen that a boring, introverted mathematician cannot. Ed Harris works that 50s Commie paranoia to a tee. Even with a script that left us loopy, when it wasn't supposed to, we still enjoyed the movie. As a based on a real story film, A Beautiful Mind doesn't have as much emotional power as Howard's Apollo 13. The performers, and the characters they create, keep it all interesting.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to A Beautiful Mind, he would have paid . . .


It's almost a shame that Nash is a mathematician. Math-speak is kept to a minimum but it still deadens the film. You are more than welcome to disagree. We plead December.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.