Saturday, February 9, 2013

Oscar Month: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

FILM: A Beautiful Mind
YEAR: 2001
OSCARS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

Russell Crowe had something going back in the early 2000's. He was first nominated for several awards for  The Insider in 1999, then won an Oscar for Gladiator in 2000, was nominated again for A Beautiful Mind in 2001, was nominated in some critic circles for Master and Commander, along with a Golden Globe nomination for Cinderella Man in 2004. I'm telling you, he was on a roll. But the film that I am talking about today is A Beautiful Mind which won Best Picture at the 2001 Oscars. A Beautiful Mind poses as a sentimental biopic about John Nash, a famous mathematician, but is truly a chilling and twisting portrayal of his mental illness.

As I said, the film is about Nash, who goes to Princeton and develops a wholly original formula and theory on why men choose the blondes always. It leads to a job at MIT and then a government job, where he is cracking codes for William Parcher (Ed Harris). At around the same time, Nash falls in love with Alicia (Jennifer Connolly), who is one of his students. But soon Nash becomes delusional and gets tangled up in a bout with mental illness. The film chronicles the rest of his life as he battles the illness.

To say what exactly Nash's illness is would be a major, major spoiler. Trust me, if you haven't seen this film, you will want to go in fresh. It was really fun for me to see the plot unwind without knowing everything that was going to happen, unlike when I first saw The Sixth Sense. But it is no spoiler to say that Russell Crowe's performance is a powerhouse. It shows the timidity and anger and fear of Nash without flinching. It is truly a great performance. If Crowe hadn't won in 2000 for Gladiator, he would have won for this. Connolly is also very good as someone who has to deal with Nash's issues and she also delivers an emotional powerhouse of a performance. Ed Harris and Paul Bettany are also good and overall the cast is a terrific ensemble.

The script is also very good. It is historical fiction. Every single thing that happened in A Beautiful Mind did not truly happen in the life of John Nash and that is okay because not everything needs to be 100% accurate. A Beautiful Mind is mostly true and it is an engrossing narrative that is very interesting. The cinematography is stunning as well. It's a period piece and a glossy, awesome looking one at that.

Director Ron Howard also has a nice balance going with the film and the direction he takes it. It is a serious look at mental illness and an unflinching one at that. As much as I loved Silver Linings Playbook, it was a lighter, more fluffy version of mental illness. Pat's condition goes away as he grows to love Tiffany. Nash's never goes away and that is one of the best things about Howard's film. It isn't light and fluffy but real.

A Beautiful Mind takes a while to get into and you might be confused at what exactly Ed Harris' character wants from Nash but trust me, A Beautiful Mind is worth it. It is a wholly satisfying film and one that I would gladly watch again.

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