Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by: Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg
Some demons never go away, no matter how much we attempt to fight it off. Victories at that point reside in trying to live with it to overcome ailments. A sentiment that our protagonist must face as he attempts to create something of relevance and importance, but struggles to properly achieve. It presents a man that fights off his support system.
From his arrival to Princeton and throughout the rest of his career, John Nash (Russell Crowe) refuses to settle for just good enough. He wants to publish something of substance that happens to be his own original idea. It leads to obsession, which only gets worse when he gets involved in a governmental operation against the Soviets.
Whenever I think of this film and its positive aspects, I can’t help but think of Jennifer Connelly. First, she’s incredibly stunning but her performance captures the pain in trying to help someone deal with their issues. A woman who sees Nash for his intelligence but it goes beyond that, which includes caring for him when he begins to struggle. She elevates the “concerned wife” archetype to new heights and becomes the shining beacon of a film that still works but struggles with how safe it plays the story.
Ron Howard is many things, but narratively daring would certainly not be one of the appropriate descriptors. He’s someone who makes good technical decisions with his films, but narratively they have no real flair to them. He attempts something somewhat atypical with the way this story is told and got this movie the top prize of Best Picture at the Academy Awards. He does so by the way he frames the experience of Nash and the issues he must fight off. He wants to do something that will leave a mark and completely comes from his own mind. It makes him exhibit behavior that others may find confusing or even alarming. Everyone else in the story serves as the anchor meant to keep him down in reality.
Russell Crowe received plenty of acclaim for this role, but I felt that he was a bit miscast, as I never bought him to be like John Nash. Something about his demeanor and the way he holds himself up made me wonder why he was tapped to take on this role. Even with that feeling, he still put on a good performance as he exhibits the paranoid and constantly nervous nature of this character, as he attempts to do something of note, which leads him to work with the government. Nash carried a gross type of arrogance that saw his work as a professor to not be worth his intellect. He would barely attend the lectures or hold office hours. When the Department of Defense approaches with the opportunity to help fight off the Soviets, he sees that he can make a difference with the work he can accomplish.
Attention to detail runs throughout the entire narrative with how the smallest little figures or traits define the reality of everything happening. Just like with Nash’s equations, one little discrepancy throws off an entire function. A Beautiful Mind contains many details that push the story forward and indicate what will occur in the future. The details impact Nash with how he can help himself in a mathematical sense, but also for his own sanity. Ron Howard allows the audience to try and decipher through those details to see if they can discover exactly what’s happening before Nash can piece everything together.
It does not hold up as much now but A Beautiful Mind still shows a good collaboration between a cast that brings this tragic story to life. The film provided a good showcase for Jennifer Connelly to shine and then win the Academy Award she deserves. The story could have gone deeper, but it could only have done that under the control of a different filmmaker and the one it received did just fine with the material. Overall, a competent and well-made film that no longer has the shine of when it first premiered.