earnest thriller-cum-weepie starring russell crowe as a maths genius whose life is wracked by schizophrenia. stamped all over with 'hollywood prestige project' and showered with awards
russell crowe gets the chance to act his heart out in ron howard's a beautiful mind. not only does he portray a maths genius (based on real life nobel prize-winner john forbes nash jr)， he portrays a maths genius crippled by schizophrenia. and he ages 47 years! he turns in a chunky, twitchy performance which, though not on a par with his more subtle turn in the insider, is admirable. he is complemented by a less flashy, underwritten turn from jennifer connelly.
princeton, 1947. awkward but arrogant john nash arrives on a maths scholarship, determined to come up with an original idea. not bothering with classes, he obsessively writes theorem (plotting the movements of pigeons, for example)。 his only friend is raffish roommate charles (bettany)， a rich source of wisecracks - “officer, i saw the driver who hit me - his name was johnny walker” - and moral support. eventually nash comes up with a revolutionary paper that wins him a position at mit. it's here that his eccentricities give way to madness. although he marries beautiful student alicia (connelly)， the top-secret code-breaking work he is apparently doing for the government - represented by ed harris' mysterious agent - pushes him to breaking point. full-blown paranoid schizophrenia erupts and nash is hospitalised, his reality a mess of mania and imagination. three decades of struggle ensue. although the film leaves out the seedier elements of the real nash's life (divorce, cottaging)， it fashions a loose biopic that is by turns funny, exciting, sad and downright corny. the script, by akiva goldsman, (who also wrote the inexcusable batman & robin)， is riddled with pithy, but occasionally clichéd, utterances that capture these shifting tones: there's nash's description of himself: “i'm quite well balanced - i have a chip on both shoulders” - or the description his doctor, rosen (plummer)， later uses to describes his disease to his wife: “the nightmare of schizophrenia is not knowing what's true.”
although it dallies with cold war thriller elements, a beautiful mind is ultimately a formulaic tale of human perseverance, and merits comparisons with other, similar award-showered tales: notably shine. as such, it's an above-average weepie, a hollywood prestige film that pre-packages the sufferings of one highly intelligent man and the woman who loves him to manipulate the emotions. although the film itself is not as smart as it imagines itself to be, it's certainly artful, with fine camera work by roger deakins (who shot the coens' stylish the man who wasn't there)， and solid, thanks to howard's even-tempered direction.
a typical oscars movie. solid, middle-brow and worthy.