A Beautiful Mind is the Hollywood-version of the life of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician and economist who suffers from schizophrenia and delusions. Director Ron Howard is a capable man, no doubt about that, but A Beautiful Mind perfectly shows what happens when a director tackles a serious theme that is too challenging for him and tries to cut out all rough edges until almost nothing but a schmaltzy feel-good story remains.
Just like in Gladiator, Russell Crowe again turns out to be the most rewarding aspect of the story. His performances brilliantly captures the confusion, the terror, the genius, the social awkwardness, the self-assurance and the doubt of his character without ever falling into the trap of ‘gimmicking’ his way through A Beautiful Mind. Jennifer Connelly is a little less successful as his supportive way – especially in the first half of the movie, she lacks the needed charm, poise and gentleness to make it believable that this woman could get John Nash out of his emotional shell. But she still improves in the second half of the picture, but mainly because it gives her the opportunity to run the expected gamut of emotions of the suffering wife – at the end, it’s standard work from a talented actress. Ed Harris is adequate but unremarkable and nobody else in the cast ever truly gets an opportunity to shine.
Considering that this is a movie about John Nash, A Beautiful Mind still doesn’t do a lot to really show who he is. Of course, A Beautiful Mind wants to put his personal problems in the foreground but the question is, why was the character of John Nash needed to make such a movie? Obviously to also present his professional achievements but A Beautiful Mind barely deals with those – yes, there is a montage that shows how he develops his economic theory but A Beautiful Mind never really explains what John Nash did that was so important and groundbreaking.
Unfortunately, especially the second half of the movie which should be the emotional heart of the story since if shows how John Nash got over his problems lacks any clear focus and jumps too often between being a domestic drama or a thriller and also never brings it message across. Without Russell Crowe, and to an extent Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind would lack any emotional or intellectual aspect since all those come only from these two actors.
A big plus of A Beautiful Mind is the wonderful score which is both hunting and touching and helps to achieve a lot of effects that Ron Howard could never bring across otherwise.
It’s an interesting story, no doubt about that, but almost everything in A Beautiful Mind appears like an easy way out – as if everyone involved was worried that any complexity could turn the audience away. It’s the kind of movie you can watch one time and be moved but every new viewing will only makes its flaws more visible.
A mixed movie that does feature some wonderful scenes, one great and one good performance, a wonderful score and a basically interesting story that unfortunately suffers from too many banalities in its realization.