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Beautiful Mind

Rating: MPAA PG-13
Runtime: 88 mins.
Distributor(s): Universal Pictures (USA)
Theatrical Release: 12/21/2001


Russell Crowe --John Forbes Nash Jr
Jennifer Connelly --Alicia
Ed Harris --William Parcher
Paul Bettany --Charles Herman
Christopher Plummer --Doctor Rosen
Judd Hirsch --Professor Helinger
Adam Goldberg --Sol
Jason Gray --Stanford

A Beautiful Mind is the true life story of John Forbes Nash Jr., a mathematical genius and Nobel Prize winner, who simply wants to think--about theories, about life, about love--if only his own mind would let him do it. A mathematical genius, John Forbes Nash, Jr. made an astonishing discovery early in life and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But his prodigious career was sidetracked by problems that would have broken many men. Nash, however, fought back. He had always been driven by his quest for one truly original idea and never lost sight of that dream. After many years of struggle, he triumphed over tragedy and literally changed the world. The film is inspired by events in the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., and in part based on the biography A Beautiful Mind, by Sylvia Nasar.

The film spans the life of John Nash (Russell Crowe)-from mathematical prodigy, to delusional schizophrenic, to Nobel Prize winner. We first meet John in 1948, and he is entering Princeton University as a graduate student. He rarely goes to class and calculates his mathematical theories on dorm room and library windows. Most of his colleagues steer clear of him, except his roommate, Charles (Paul Bettany), who tries to lighten him up. John eventually closes in on a hypothesis for an economic theory and becomes a star in the math world. He lands a prestigious position at MIT, meets his wife, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) and consults for the Pentagon, cracking impossible codes no one else can. He meets William Parcher (Ed Harris), a CIA agent who brings John in on a top-secret government operation to catch Russian spies--or so we think. Unbeknownst to those around him, Nash's "beautiful mind" is descending into madness and his grip on reality is fading. Alicia gets him psychiatric help, but the drugs and shock therapy dull him so senselessly, it's painful to watch. All Nash wants is his mind back, so he begins to fight his illness on his own terms. Through the years, John's delusions don't necessarily go away, but he learns to deal with them sanely. More importantly, in Nash's later life, he finally gains the respect and admiration he deserves from his peers.

We all know the man can act, but Crowe is truly a wonder in this film. He really gets under Nash's skin, having obviously studied the real-life mathematician's movements and mannerisms carefully. From Nash's walk to the twitches of the mouth to the eyes that never stop moving, he fleshes out a character that melds perfectly with the real Nash. Crowe shows us the horror of being locked in a mind that works brilliantly yet won't let him see things normally. It's a tour de force performance and one richly deserving an Oscar. The other standout in Mind has to be the stunning Connelly. Over the years, she's quietly been turning in stellar performances in such films as Requiem for a Dream and Pollock, but as Nash's beleaguered wife, Alicia, she finally gets to shine. At times, you are wondering what the heck a beauty like her sees in the weird Nash, but Connelly convincingly portrays a woman in love with a man whose mind is great, if troubled. Witnessing her torment and anguish over her husband's debilitating illness was moving. In the supporting roles, both Harris, as the hardened agent and Bettany (so good in this year's A Knight's Tale) as Nash's unconventional friend are also excellent.

A Beautiful Mind quite possibly could be the best thing Ron Howard has ever directed. Not to say he hasn't helmed some very good films, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Apollo 13, but Howard has done things in this movie he's never done before. In delving into the mind of a paranoid-schizophrenic, he doesn't simply show us a crazy person but lets us experience the madness right along with Nash. Also, much like Good Will Hunting, Howard makes calculating impossible mathematical problems exciting, especially when we are looking at the numbers from Nash's perspective. It seems Howard has matured in his directing style. The film was lush to look at, where he uses shadows and light in an amazing way. The script, based on a book by Sylvia Nasar, was brilliant as well. A great scene has Nash, who isn't sure if who he's seeing is real or not, turn to a student and ask, "Do you see that person there?" When the answer is yes, he replies, "Good. I'm always wary about people I don't know." The only drawback is the film could have been about a half-hour shorter, but no matter. 'Tis the season for 2½ hour


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