On the surface, "A Beautiful Mind" is a biopic of John Nash, one of America's great mathematicians. But that statement is misleading. "A Beautiful Mind" is not a film that paints a big, sweeping portrayal of the events of one man' life. Instead, in the way that Ed Harris did last year with "Pollock", Ron Howard gives the viewer a more personal look at the subject of the film. Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman don't take the easy route and merely dramatize everything that Nash accomplished, for that would really only be a two-hour way of saying "Won Nobel Prize for..." They let us get to know Nash as only those who were closest to him knew him, and most remarkably show us how his mind processed and who he was.
John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a math student studying at Princeton College. His friends are studying and building on the works of what he considers to be "lesser mortals", while what he really wants to do is come up with a truly original idea. He spends his time alone, trying to find definitive patterns to everyday movements, games, etc. He gets encouragement from his roommate Charles (Paul Bettany), but I'll jump the gun a little and tell you this is where the trouble starts. Suddenly, he does find his original idea, and it is so revolutionary that he is given a grant to study/teach at MIT. There, he meets Alicia, a student of his that he has begun to court. The two get married a while later, but during this time, Alicia doesn't see that Nash is being plagued by delusions, one a CIA operative (Parcher, played by Ed Harris) who enlists him on a "top secret mission" to try and discover secret encoded messages in periodicals supposedly being sent out by Russian spies. His empty quest starts to devour him, as he dreams of the Russians coming after him and other secret forces closing in. Alicia begins to notice that something is definitely wrong, and starts to help her husband try and realize what is real and what isn't.
"A Beautiful Mind" is a solid, powerful drama. I'll re-iterate that it doesn't tell us everything about John Nash, and sometimes that irked me. I admit I did not know much about John Nash's accomplishments, and going out, I wasn't in the least bit enlightened on that front. His supposedly breakthrough work on game theory goes relatively unexplained here, and that was one thing in the film that could have used a little tweaking. However, this is about the man, not the work. Many people have complained about the film's ignorance towards Nash's bisexuality, and I would have to disagree with them to an extent. There are moments in where bisexuality is most definitely hinted at. This would be more of a problem if the film was not so obviously trying to focus on Nash's paranoid schizophrenia, something that is portrayed magnificently.
Akiva Goldsman has fashioned his screenplay in such a way that we are put in Nash's shoes, and then brought to see a more objective view. At first, we have little idea as to what Nash's delusions are, they all blend into reality seamlessly. Then, they start to get more outrageous, and when Nash's fears of these images start to be brought out into the public, we start to look at him from another viewpoint. However, we feel for him, because we have seen what he is going through, and we feel for those affected by him (especially Alicia) because he has become so out of touch with the world.
This film is a prime example of what Russell Crowe can do when he's not out toga partying with Ridley Scott. He gives one of his best performances, portraying the schizophrenia without over-doing it or milking moments for their dramatic value. Another actor might immediately approach the subject grimly and teary-eyed, but Nash at first cannot realize what he is seeing does not exist, so why should he be afraid? Jennifer Connelly gives the other extraordinary performance in the film. Connelly has been one of the most under-appreciated and hardest working actresses in the business, and it is wonderful that she will now get the recognition she deserves for her powerful, passionate portrayal of Alicia Nash.
"A Beautiful Mind" is compelling film that never stoops to endorse melodrama or over-acting. It doesn't get all the details of John Nash's life in, that much is true, but it doesn't need to. It has a purpose, and it executes it in magnificent form. It is a fine, intricately constructed vision of paranoid schizophrenia and a man who had the will to defeat it. And although skeptics will attack it until the cows come home, the truth is that "Mind" is beautiful.