Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: "A Beautiful Mind" is Beautiful

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 (of 2002) by Leroy Douresseaux

A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Running time: 135 minutes (2 hours, 15 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
WRITER: Akiva Goldsman (based upon the book by Sylvia Nasar)
PRODUCERS: Brian Glazer and Ron Howard
EDITORS: Dan Hanley and Mike Hill
Academy Award winner

DRAMA with elements of mystery and romance

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Josh Lucas, Anthony Rapp, Jason Gray-Stanford, and Judd Hirsch

A Beautiful Mind is based upon the real life story of John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russell Crowe), a math prodigy, who goes on to win the Nobel Prize after years of struggling with schizophrenia. The handsome and arrogant Nash made an astonishing discovery early in his career and also meets his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). On the brink of international fame, his world falls apart when he succumbs to mental illness. With the help of his wife, he struggles to regain his career and his social life and to be a husband and father to his wife and child.

Directed by Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind is an engaging and riveting biopic that runs the gamut of emotions from elation to revulsion and from despair to hope. It is earnest and intense, playful and romantic, heartbreaking and life affirming. Not a biography in the art house mold, but a wonderful sort of middlebrow picture with a feel-good resolution for the masses, or at least those who are interested in Hollywood product that doesn’t involve SFX and titillation.

The artistry here is the performance of Russell Crowe. Increasingly a controversial figure hounded by the tabloids and infotainment news organizations, he has replaced Kevin Spacey as the actor of the moment. Here, he combines the best of his performances in The Insider (for which he earned an Academy Award nomination) and in Gladiator (for which he won an Academy Award) to portray John Nash – the paranoid hero of the former and the never-say-die leader of the latter. Since Romper Stomper, Crowe has been a mesmerizing screen presence, and he is at full wattage here.

He sells us on this movie, and we buy asking for more. When Nash is the shy boy, we yearn for him to get a woman. We thrill and laugh at Nash’s clumsy arrogance, and we enjoy his success. We cringe at his illness and hope against hope for his recovery. And who couldn’t, at least, almost shed tears when Nash’s peers and the Nobel committee honor him.

Ron Howard does good work here, and Ms. Connelly is pretty good as Alicia Nash, but this is Russell’s show, he can win the audience over. Since the twilight so-called Golden Age of studio pictures in Hollywood, there have been so few real, masculine men in movies. Some of them, post Golden Age are not great actors, and some that are, don’t have the box office draw. Crowe is all man, a fine actor, and a box office draw.

He’s an artist. He attracts the audience to Nash using every part of himself – in his gestures and the way he moves his body. We can believe Crowe is Nash in the way it seems that Crowe really loves mathematics. His face is a tapestry of emotions that are so convincing and so important to selling the scene, so layered and three-dimensional that were transported into the movie. We live and suffer vicariously with Crowe’s Nash.

For the haters out there, the best is yet to come. Things about the real Nash’s past that were left out of this film don’t matter one wit in respect to Crowe’s amazing performance. No disrespect to his collaborators, but A Beautiful Mind is all his.

8 of 10

2002 Academy Awards: 4 wins: “Best Picture” (Brian Grazer and Ron Howard), “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” (Jennifer Connelly), “Best Director” (Ron Howard), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Akiva Goldsman); 4 nominations: “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (Russell Crowe), “Best Editing” (Mike Hill and Daniel P. Hanley), “Best Makeup” (Greg Cannom and Colleen Callaghan), and “Best Music, Original Score” (James Horner)

2002 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role” (Russell Crowe) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role” (Jennifer Connelly); 3 nominations: “Best Film” (Brian Grazer and Ron Howard), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Akiva Goldsman) and “David Lean Award for Direction” (Ron Howard)

2002 Golden Globes: 4 wins: “Best Motion Picture – Drama,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Russell Crowe), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Jennifer Connelly), and “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Akiva Goldsman); 2 nominations: “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Ron Howard) and “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (James Horner)


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