I did have doubts about the film when I first sat down to watch it, I thought it was going to be lots of tears followed by lots of friendly hugging, but Howard has directed a film that is well balanced letting the viewer have sympathy with Nash but also learn about mental illness in a scoiety that still struggles to fully understand what people like him are going through. Howard sets these questions while never getting too heavy into the politics and instead concentrates on the struggles of the characters involved.
The performances by all involved are truly stunning, Crowe plays Nash with a particular shyness which develops throughout the film from his days of graduation, to his (supposed) working life and then finally to his struggle to cope with his mental illness. Connelly plays a character that is equally as tormented as Nash, and who like him has to defend the love she really feels for him as both characters show similar courage.
It would be wrong to discuss Nash's mental illness without ruining half of the film, if you do not know what it is about then you would be surprised by the turn of events as Howard cleverly tricks the audience. However, this is not just a one time watch, whenever I have sat down to watch the film I have noticed small touches here and there. Though my favourite part of the film is towards the end when Nash day by day struggles to cope, the character development is superb and it is scandalous that Crowe was not awarded an Oscar for this performance, because in all honesty I don't think he will ever have a better performance as he did as Professor John Nash.
The film garnered four Academy Awards, and, had it not been for the competition from the first of the Lord of the Rings films, this number would almost certainly have been larger. In particular, there is conjecture that Crowe's notorious bad-temper at an earlier ceremony cost him his award for best actor in a leading role. In my view, his portrayal of John Nash deserved the award, rather than Denzel Washington's appearance as a corrupt Narcotics cop in Training Day. Certainly, Crowe was spot on with the mannerisms and temperament of a schizophrenia sufferer, playing the part with a tension of volatility with was felt throughout the film.
Howard's direction was, as we have come to expect, wonderful. Indeed, it won him an Academy Award, a surprise, as many critics had tipped Peter Jackson to storm to victory that year. Howard draws brilliant performances from each of the cast, and, despite the dream-like nature of many of the sequences in the film, there's an almost heightened sense of realism.
There isn't a poor performance to pick. Each supporting actor and actress gives a smashing account of themselves. The sinister government agent in black suit and hat, who's name eludes me right now, is brilliant throughout. Nash's loyal colleague's Sol and Bender put in laudable shows. Admittedly, there's not much strenuous acting to be done, but they do whatever they have to do, and they do it well. However, one actress stands out - and for this she was awarded an Oscar for best actress in a supporting role. She gives a truly believable show as Alicia, Nash's wife, and, while it is difficult to see why she would want to marry Nash in the first place, her performance as the suffering but loyal friend is excellent. The connection between the two is brilliant and, at times, tear-inducing - a quality which I very much admire in a film.
There has been some criticism for screenwriter, Akiva Goldsman, for his depiction of Nash. It is true, that much of the more controversial points of Nash's life are omitted from the film (Nash's illegitmate child with another woman, cheating on his wife, being just one example) but the aim of the film, rather than being a biopic, is to demonstrate the strength of the human spirit. A Beautiful Mind shows that though Nash suffered from obstructive personality problems, and eventually mental illness, he was still an inspired thinker who won a Nobel Prize, and he still had a loving wife and son. Goldsman isn't trying to hide the bad aspects of Nash's character, they just don't contribute to the film's theme.
What's more, this film has an effect on the watcher. It does inspire and uplift. It shows us the strength and determination of some people to succeed. And it shows us how love is ultimately the driving force behind everything good that happens in the world.
I think, for this reason, A Beautiful Mind deserves all of the praise it gets, and if I had my way, it would get more.
Furthermore, it deserves five stars in this review. Buy it.
The film is based on the life of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician who struggled with mental illness for much of his life. There is a large injection of fiction into the story, but it is done in a way that is wholly believable. As usual, Hollywood insists on adding a love story, but this one is not too sugary, and the excellent performance of Jennifer Connelly makes this a very moving film, with an ending that you spend the whole film hoping for.
Crowe's performance is so believable, especially when he is in the depths of his illness. The rest of the supporting cast do a fine job too, and Ron Howard's direction is the right balance of seeing the illness both from the inside and the outside.
A five star performance from Crowe!
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