Friday, March 2, 2012

A Beautiful Mind

John Nash was a brilliant and misanthropic mathematician from West Virginia who must have seemed mysterious to his Princeton classmates in the 1950s. Having largely avoided his peers while solving equations on the library windows, John eventually makes key breakthroughs in game theory that propels him to a successful career with the government and a supplemental teaching post where he meets his doting wife Alicia. However, when he is approached by a government agent seeking his help for code breaking, it becomes clear that John has lost his grips with reality and may have had a schizophrenic break. Viewing Ron Howard's biopic "A Beautiful Mind" today, it seems like one of the odder Best Picture recipients of recent times. Although he won the Oscar for his work, Howard's direction seems erratic and doesn't draw us in to its subject's brilliance (i.e. lets just light up several patterns of numbers on the screen so we can see his mind is at work). Also, the film offers a distressing "self-help" view of mental illness, and the film's twist and gimmick surrounding that is irritating, at least the second time through. Of course, "A Beautiful Mind" is redeemed by it wonderful cast with Russell Crowe as the moody Nash and Jennifer Connelly as his loving and supporting wife. Christopher Plummer and Josh Lucas also have nice turns as a psychiatrist and colleague of Nash's, respectively. Although it doesn't deserve its esteemed status, "A Beautiful Mind" is worth seeing on the merits of its acting.