Ron Howard's A BEAUTIFUL MIND, according to the press notes, is "inspired by
events in the life of" John Forbes Nash Jr., a Nobel prize winning mathematician
whose groundbreaking work has been applied to such wide ranging practical
subjects as the FCC's auction of bandwidth. As someone who has an undergraduate
degree in math, I have never seen math become so funny or so bizarre. Putting
aside completely the question of how much of the story is true and how much
fiction, the movie itself is engrossing. A sometimes jarring mixture of genres,
it could be described as a mathematical comedy/conspiratorial thriller/old
In a performance that wavers between deserving an Oscar nomination and one
that's overacted in the hopes of getting one, Russell Crowe delivers an intense
performance as Nash. Expanding on the small hand ticks from his acting in THE
INSIDER, Crowe portrays Nash as a veritable boiling cauldron of exaggerated
bodily mannerisms. It's a credit to Crowe's acting ability that he makes it all
as credible as he does. Less satisfactory is his West Virginia accent which
comes and goes like the swell of ocean waves.
"Who among you will be the next Morse? The next Einstein?" Professor Helinger
(Judd Hirsch) asks of the new students to Princeton in the fall of 1947. Cocky
but socially inept, Nash wants and expects to be the one. Shooting only for the
moon, it looks for a while as if he'll never have any success at all. In the
meantime, he manages to insult those around him. "There could be a mathematical
explanation for how bad your tie is," he tells one student. Somehow his
obnoxious behavior is taken as endearing, and he attracts plenty of fellow male
Women, however, are another story. Applying math to everything in his life, he
devises a way for him and his buddies to use a mathematical adaptation of John
Smith's economic theories as a way to approach dating strangers in a bar. When
it comes to the opposite sex, Nash is best when he keeps his mouth firmly shut.
Wanting to have intercourse with an attractive coed, he tries to pick her up by
asking, "Could we go right straight to the fluid exchange?" Any bets on whether
that come-on line works?
Paul Bettany (A KNIGHT'S TALE) gives a spirited reading of Charles, Nash's
college roommate who tries to impress upon him the importance of the outside
world over that of the academic. Jennifer Connelly (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) plays
Nash's wife Alicia. She has some nice scenes but is basically underutilized.
The story makes a dramatic turn five years later when William Parcher (Ed
Harris), a very sinister figure from the Department of Defense, comes on campus
to obtain Nash's help with some top secret code breaking. Ron Howard is never
able to make this whole episode nearly as realistic as it needs to be in order
to gain credibility with the audience.
There is a key revelation in Nash's life that would fit beautifully in the
middle or latter part of the last act. Instead Akiva Goldsman's script, based
on Sylvia Nasar's book, sets the event in the middle of the entire movie. The
result dulls the impact of the movie's best part. And the last half of the
movie, while interesting, plays like one long epilogue.
Will Russell Crowe get an Academy Award nomination for his part? Undoubtedly.
Does he deserve it? Perhaps.
A BEAUTIFUL MIND runs 2:05. It is rated PG-13 for "intense thematic material,
sexual content and a scene of violence" and would be acceptable for kids around
12 and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 12, gave it *** 1/2 and said that he loved everything about
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes