This was one of those movies I wasn't excited about seeing, but I'd seen everything else, and it was a boring Sunday afternoon, so I thought "what the hey". I'd already heard some critics call this film lyrical and moving; others, mawkish and manipulative. In the end, I should have listened to that latter group.
Okay, A Beautiful Mind isn't that bad. But it's just more of the same old Oscar-hungry mediocrity we see every year around this time. Russell Crowe stars as John Nash, the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician who came up with some significant economic theories, then spent the rest of his life dealing with severe schizophrenia. This film touches on some of his groundbreaking ideas, shows him going cuckoo, and lets him romance pretty Jennifer Connelly.
Ron Howard must be tired of all the Opie Taylor/Richie Cunningham gags, but he remains an All-American Director of All-American Movies: obvious, sweet-natured, frothy work. It's hard to expect anything challenging from him, even when he tackles a subject as tricky as schizophrenia. To wit: in order to show the workings of Nash's "beautiful mind", Howard resorts to some hokey visual effects, suggesting that a genius's brain actually sees little glowing lines around objects in real life. (Jodie Foster earlier pulled this trick in Little Man Tate.)
Russell Crowe is good as a character who, if put in a better film, would be fascinating: his Nash is arrogant, obsessive, and self-loathing. And it's to the movie's credit that his disease is never "cured" but merely dealt with. Of course, that's a fact of Nash's life, and it's hard to fudge that – although Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman mess with a lot of other real-life details. For instance, in the film, Nash hallucinates that Russian agents are pursuing him. In real life, he thought it was aliens. The change is understandable from a dramatic standpoint – the film would have been unintentionally hilarious if little green men were chasing Russell Crowe around – but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Similarly, the ageless Jennifer Connelly ably portrays that old Hollywood standby, the Long-Suffering But Unquestionably Devoted Wife. In real life, Nash's wife divorced him, only to remarry him a few years later. Perhaps the less you know about the man that A Beautiful Mind is actually about, the more you will enjoy the film.