The role of the suffering but supportive wife is always an award-magnet and so it was no surprise when Jennifer Connelly won an Oscar for her portrayal of Alicia Nash, the wife of John Nash, a brilliant academic mind who suffers from hallucinations and other problems.
Basically, this performance can be separated in two different parts – the boring one and the great one.
Unfortunately, Jennifer Connelly began her performance extremely lifeless and rid of almost every bit of charm and energy. Her way of whispering instead of talking, her lack of any screen presence and her almost sleep-inducing line-delivery almost ruin her entire performance since these early scenes actually demand exactly the opposite of her – she has to be charming, lively, captivating and full of confidence to make it believable that this young woman could actually conquer the heart of a man like John Nash. She improves during a later scene when she reacts to John Nash’s open frankness very differently than his previous dates. And she also becomes much more relaxed in her role when John Nash proposes to her.
It’s an unfortunate start to what becomes an occasionally very strong performance, even if there are still some missteps. The moment Jennifer Connelly stops being a love interest and actually becomes the suffering wife, something in her changes and her work becomes much more memorable and she even begins to find some energy in her acting – there is still a strange lack of life in her but it’s much less obvious now. Tears and pain seem to come very easily to her and so it’s no surprise that the scenes that show her character at its lowest are also her highpoints. Her chemistry with Russell Crowe is also much stronger now.
What remains, as just mentioned, is the lack of life in some scenes – especially when she is talking to an old friend about her life with John and she basically opens her heart and thoughts to him. In these moments, Jennifer Connelly should have found the core of her whole character but in her hands, the moment comes and goes without any further exploration and Jennifer Connelly misses an important opportunity to develop her character.
It’s mostly her dramatic moments that carry this performance and help to achieve this position – when she fears for the life or her baby or breaks down in her bathroom, she impressively shows how talented she actually is. And her famous ‘You wanna know what’s real?`-scene is easily among the best moments of the whole movie. Her tenderness, her love and her devotion are finally completely visible in this small moment.
This could definitely have been a much stronger performance and Jennifer Connelly found some unforgettable moments that she delivered with a strong dedication but the overall effect is still too little to place her higher than this.