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A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Film poster for A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe (2001)
A Beautiful Mind is the semi-true story about a great math mind, the mind of John Nash. John Nash was undoubtedly a brilliant man, a code breaking machine. Although as seems to be the case with all brilliant minds there comes with it a brilliant curse. A Beautiful Mind follows John Nash though the torment of his mind. A man cursed, seeing things that aren't really there and becoming caught up in a conspiracy that's not all that it appears to be. The film displays how Nash deals with his experiences as well as how it affects those around him. For fear of spoiling the film for those who may not have not yet seen it I won't go into too anymore detail, but if you enjoy truly wonderful films you are doing yourself a disservice by not seeing this.

Russell Crowe as John Nash, breaking a code for the US Army.
While A Beautiful Mind is "based" upon true events the story, as always, is exaggerated by Hollywood. Anyone interested in the complete account should check out the book that the film was based on also titled A Beautiful Mind, written by Sylvia Nasar. It's an interesting read, a little technical in places but it shines a light on John Nash where the film doesn't go. A Beautiful Mind sugar coats Nash's life quite a bit; in reality he was a pretty perverted guy, which actually makes you appreciate what his wife had to put up with a lot more than what's simply revealed on screen.  The book also covers his illusions and reveals they really weren't such a large occurrence in his life as the film suggests. But technicalities aside this is truly a great film whether it follows the actual life of Nash to a " T " or not.

Jennifer Connelly as John Nash's wife.
Where A Beautiful Mind shines is it's all-star cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Christopher Plummer (you hear that Univarn?), Paul Bettany and Josh Lucas.  Of course the two real shining stars are Crowe and Connelly, whose character relationship's are full of ups and downs.  The role of John Nash is in my opinion Crowe's best performance easily topping Gladiator.  It's in this film Crowe experiences the full spectrum of emotions and insanity, it's a role I couldn't imagine anyone else able to pull off.  Connelly is great as well as her character struggles to stay sane through her husbands irritating quirks and literal insanity.  Was her performance worthy of the Oscar she received?  That's debatable, personally I'd say yes, but I thought Crowe's was better and he robbed, still there's no question that she's an extremely talented actress.

Jennifer Connelly attempting to comfort Russell Crowe (John Nash) who is being tortured by the effects of schizophrenia.
Now it's time for my rant.  My only qualm about the film, which is not even about the film itself but more about how Russell was robbed of his Academy Award. How does a film that wins Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay, not win Best Actor?  In this case the lead actor is not only the main focus of the story but is the defining factor that leads to the success of the other four major categories.  If someone else was cast in the role and did a mediocre job does anyone honestly believe A Beautiful Mind would have received any acknowledgment? 

Russell Crowe as John Nash in the early scenes of the film A Beautiful Mind when he was an extremely cocky code breaker.
While Denzel Washington is a great actor I can't help but feeling the Academy was somehow reconciling for some deep seeded guilt at an African American not winning the lead actor award for forty years and an actress never winning, then suddenly Denzel and Halle Berry both win in the same year!  Denzel had one an Academy Award for best supporting actor and probably should have one best actor for some other role in the past, Halle Berry's on the other hand was a complete gimme, she has more beauty than she has talent.  Obviously this was all more than simply a coincidence, which I guess is not a surprise win it comes to award shows but still does not devalue the fact that Crowe should have been a shoo-in winner.

John Nash writing mathematics equations on the window of his dorm room as his dealing with schizophrenia begin to show.
Overall, for a time A Beautiful Mind was my favorite film.  A fabulous film, dark, dramatic, mysterious, well cast, well directed, with a haunting soundtrack, and the best Russell Crowe performance to date.  The only film to dethrone this one for my current all-time favorite is Cinderella Man which has everything A Beautiful Mind has and one thing extra... it's a highly inspirational film, where A Beautiful Mind can be downright depressing at times.

Available on DVD / Blu-ray



  1. I quite enjoy A Beautiful Mind, especially for its more realistic approach to schizophrenia (although it should be noted in reality Nash suffered solely from what he heard, and didn't see anything).

    The two criticisms I remember hearing a lot about this film were 1) Removal of John Nash's homosexual relations and 2) Altering many of the events in his life (adding non-existent characters, removing divorce from Alicia, etc.) for dramatic purposes.

    Neither of which is all too uncommon in film, so eh, I'm indifferent there. As for Denzel, I think his win was in the likable for too long realm (I think he should have won for Malcolm X). But, I would correct you on one thing (rather minor) Sidney Poitier did win Best Actor, but it had been 40 years since then. But you are right until Berry won, no African American woman had won a Best Actress Oscar (shockingly so).

  2. @Univarn - yes clearly they added to the film make more entertaining. While Nash's life might be interesting taking out the hallucinations pretty much kills the film. If anything Crowe's portrayal of the character is probably the closest to reality, everything else in Nash's life was simply a building block. I think they removed the more seeder aspects of his life to make him a more likable guy, plus adding anything else to what the film already focused on would have been overdoing it. There's already enough drama going on. I think the only scenario putting it in would have made any sense is if they were going to stick more to the book rather than going off on their own tangent.

    I remembered something about Sidney Poitier but I thought he had won for best supporting actor, so my mistake on that, still 40 years is a long time, so I think my underlining point still holds. But I've fixed that in the review so thanks for pointing it out.

  3. about the film: i agree with you that this is probably russell's finest performance to date (although i do love ben wade...). the insulin-shock therapy scene alone was oscar-worthy. if you've never watched the film with ron howard's commentary running, you must do so; it will provide you with all sorts of fascinating insights into the making of the film and to russell's phenomenal commitment to his work. i wish, however, that howard had ended the film with the 'awarding of the pens' scene. i thought the whole nobel prize scene was smarmy and forced and detracted from the final effect of the film.
    about not winning the oscar: russell probably got himself removed from oscar contention because of an incident that took place in great britain a short while before the academy awards. the academy most likely thought it would be embarrassing to give the top prize to such a 'prickly character'; and besides, he'd won it the year before and been nominated three times in a row - what more did he want? (i'm being facetious here...).
    on taking liberties with dr. nash's life: i read sylvia nasser's book. i think she made it clear that the allegations of nash's homosexuality have never been proven, and i also think if howard had made that a part of his film, it would have opened a can of worms that would have been difficult to resolve and close in a two hour endeavor. i'm also glad the fact that alicia divorced john was left out. the love the nashes have for each other is so crucial to the story that the divorce had to be left out.
    is this my favorite of russell's films? no; for sheer repeat viewing, i'll go with 'master & commander' every time. but if you told me this one was playing at the local cineplex, i'd be there every night of its run.

  4. @becks - totally agree, I think the way the film was written was the best possible way to do it, adding anymore to the film would have only hurt it.

    It's been a while since I read the book but I didn't think the alleged cheating on his wife with dudes was the only thing he was into. I thought there was something else.

  5. Yes, it's easy to rant about the AA that year - how can a film that wins Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (among others) not honor the actor who was in almost every scene in the movie! But I think people still believe he won anyway - I've actually seen it in print a couple of times.

    I read the book too and marveled that they were able to make it into a movie at all, let alone one that was so moving. They HAD to adapt and condense the story, they weren't making a mini series, for Pete's sake. My take is that the Alicia character really represented ALL the people that helped and harbored Nash through his madness times - his mathematical colleagues for instance. I wish people would just lighten up about that aspect - it's a movie. A two-hour movie!

    ITA about the commentary on the DVD - it's very interesting.

    Your 26 days are almost up - are you going to make it? Been enjoying this series, always thought it would make a good topic for a blog.

  6. @Anonymous - Well I certainly think he won. I'm not familiar with the incident becks is referring to in Britain, but I don't think it would have been entirely the reason they skipped him by, it might have some part in their reasoning though.

    Glad you've been enjoying it all. Will I get it all done prior to Robin Hood? Probably not, I'm really surprised I've actually been able to get this many done prior to Robin Hood. I figure I'll get three more done before Friday, American Gangster and Body of Lies are two I can almost do without having to re-watch them, just have to see how much time I have this week.

  7. the incident in britain - if i'm remembering correctly (and forgive me if my facts are amiss; this isn't really an episode i particularly want to remember too clearly!), russell had just been awarded best actor for abm by bafta. his acceptance speech included a poem that he recited in tribute to his recently-departed dear friend, richard harris. the director of the televised program saw fit to delete said poem. apparently, russell took extreme exception to this and jacked the guy up against a wall and bellowed something to the effect of 'how dare he remove the poem from the best actor's speech?' needless to say, this didn't go over too well with the brits, and apparently with the academy, who chose to give the best actor nod to denzel instead.
    denzel himself has said that he didn't feel he should have won for 'training day'.

  8. @becks - ah, well they shouldn't have cut off his speech, although it could have been handled better by Russell. If that's the case the Academy is more hypocritical than I thought. They had no problem giving Roman Polanski an Oscar for the Pianist when he was a fugitive from the law for having sex with an underage girl, but Russell throwing a guy against a wall they would take exception to, amazing. I'll add that to the list of reasons to stop caring what anyone in Hollywood thinks.

  9. The Oscar race that year was downright nasty and yes Russell should have won that one.Wahington had won a best supporting oscar for Glory,years earlier. The Academy Awards have become increasingly more political and at times their choices are dubious.I don't believe the AMPAS people expected yet another outstanding performance from Russell so soon after Gladiator and the Insider.Going for Denzel's performance was the PC thing to do and any other rationalizations given are baloney.As for Howard's direction ,well he created genuine mystery and tension with the delusions and made the film truly great.When you think about it all those action sequences were just delusions going on inside his mind,now that is frightening. Ah the film score is haunting and poignant,overall an excellent movie.

  10. @Judy - after that atrocity I gave up on caring what won and what got nominated, it's obvious it's all based on an agenda. Then Cinderella Man getting snubbed a few years later, simply ridiculous.


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