A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The popularity of brain disorders is baffling. You don't have to look further than the exaggerated profit margins from Rain Man and Forrest Gump to prove the point. Now a romanticised screen life of Nobel prize winner John Nash is heading for the Oscars, with $150million of box office change in its pocket.

What is going on? Nash had the social skills of an orangutan, suffered from chronic paranoia and enjoyed meaningful relationships with people who didn't exist. If he hadn't had an original mathematical brain, he would have spent his productive years, drugged to the nines, in some psychiatric holding station.

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Ron Howard can't move without being reminded that in his youth, when he had hair, he was The Fonz's best buddy. Life didn't end with Happy Days. He went on to be a director and was responsible for such sweetmeats as Splash, Backdraft and Apollo 13 - let's not talk about The Grinch and Far & Away.

A Beautiful Mind appears so conventionally structured in the classic biopic mould that the early section at Princeton in the late Forties, where Nash excuses his gauche manner by saying, "I'm here to work," and his fellow undergraduates behave with snobbish disregard, displays symptoms of terminal nostalgia.

Briefly, and with eccentric flair, he becomes a teacher. One of his students, a particularly attractive girl (Jennifer Connelly), makes a pass at him and, without so much as a "What's a knockout broad like you doing with a goofy bumblenut like him", they tie the knot and (gasp!) have a child.

Also, a shadowy figure, calling himself Parcher (the ever-wonderful Ed Harris), appears on the scene. He works for the Government in a strictly secret capacity and persuades Nash to help decipher Russian codes.

With Parcher's arrival, the film flicks off its safety catch. The dialogue has a sharpness to it ("Do you know something, Dr Nash?" "Constantly") that compliments screenwriter Akiva Goldsman and the performances by a little known support cast never threaten the star role.

Russell Crowe carries the can and he does so with honour and the can becomes a trophy, richly deserved. After the macho heroics of General Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator, a mentally unstable mathematician, who cannot make conversation and has the body language of a four-year-old, is a challenge he accepts with relish. It is a degree of his success that you don't stop and wonder why this physically inept individual has the biceps of a superhero.

Reviewed on: 20 Jan 2002
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A Beautiful Mind packshot
True story with Russell Crowe as a schizophrenic mathematical genius who overcomes inner turmoil to complete Nobel prize-winning theory.
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Director: Ron Howard

Writer: Akiva Goldsman, based on the book by Sylvia Nasar

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Vivien Cardone, Judd Hirsch, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer, Clint Howard

Year: 2001

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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Rain Man
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