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A beautiful mind

A beautiful mind (edition 2001)

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Title:A beautiful mind
Info:United States : Universal Pictures ; 2001.
Collections:Your library

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A Beautiful Mind [2001 film] by Ron Howard (Director)

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After John Nash, a brilliant but asocial mathematician, accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish. (IMDb)
  DrLed | Nov 4, 2017 |
A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe – John Nash
Jennifer Connelly – Alicia Nash

Paul Bettany – Charles
Ed Harris – Parcher
Christopher Plummer – Dr Rosen
Josh Lucas – Hansen

Screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, based on the non-fiction book by Sylvia Nasar.
Directed by Ron Howard.

First released, 13 December 2001.

DreamWorks, 2006. 130 min. Colour. 5.1 sound.1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Bonus: audio commentary by Akiva Goldsman and Ron Howard; deleted scenes (26:53).


Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?

Imagine that! If your imagination fails, simply watch A Beautiful Mind. It makes you exclaim, with admiration or contempt, together with a famous character: “What a piece of work is a man!”

There is no shortage of movies about the extraordinary ability of our brain to produce delusions. Some of them are very fine and do say something significant about the human condition that we really should know. None of them have I found more affecting and more thought-provoking than A Beautiful Mind. It’s one of the few perfect movies.

What do you need to make a perfect movie? You need quite a lot. You need a perfect story, a perfect cast, a perfect director, a perfect production design team and a perfect soundtrack – in this order of importance. So it’s no wonder perfect movies don’t happen often. But when they do happen, they provide unique experience that enriches your personality.

First of all, Akiva Goldsman did an outstanding job with the script. I have not read Sylvia Nasar’s book and I probably never will. I know nothing about the real John Nash and I couldn’t care less about him. This is not a documentary. This is fiction, and it has the right to be judged as such. Well, scene by scene or overall, the screenplay is a masterpiece of storytelling and characterisation. Goldsman handles everything from tense drama to subtle comedy with consummate mastery, not a word wasted. And he keeps a perfect balance. Stories of madness easily degenerate into gratuitous violence or excessive sentimentality. This one never does. But the less you know about it, the better.

Suffice it to say, this is a deeply moving love story that tries to survive against impossible odds. John Nash, whatever he ever was in the so-called real life, is a complex and compelling character on the screen. There is something epic, something incredibly inspiring about his journey from the physical to the metaphysical to the delusional – and back. Does he have a beautiful mind? I would say, yes, if you are a mathematician. But even if you are a common mortal, there is some genuine if austere beauty in John’s struggle to overcome his delusions.

To my mind, however, Alicia’s mind is the truly beautiful one. She is not just another strong, three-dimensional and very well-written character. She is indispensable. John Nash doesn’t make complete sense without her. The critical moment is when she decides to stay with her husband rather than leave him after he had more or less assaulted her. John never would have made it to “the other side” alone. He knows it only too well, and he makes it abundantly clear in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (yet another fine piece of writing by Mr Goldsman):

I've always believed in numbers, in equations and logic that lead to reason. But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask: What truly is logic? Who decides reason? My quest has taken me to the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional, and back. I have made the most important discovery of my career – the most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I am only here tonight because of you. You are all the reason I am. You are all my reasons. Thank you.

All this would be lost without a great cast to bring it off. And what a cast this is!

Russell Crowe’s performance is monumental. I repeat and italicise that: monumental. How he lost the Oscar to Denzel Washington in Training Day is beyond me; just another proof that awards carry no weight whatsoever, personally for me at any rate. Crowe is flawless at all possible fronts, facial expressions, vocal inflections and body language; the young and cocky geek, the middle-aged lunatic estranged from reality, the old and respected professor. This is a towering performance, not just great acting that makes you appreciate the genius of Russell Crowe, but a great make-believe that makes you reconsider some of your fundamental ideas about the human animal on the basis of a fictional character.

Jennifer Connelly is equally stunning, and I certainly don’t mean her extraordinary physical beauty. (As a matter of fact, earlier in her career, before she lost a good deal of weight, she looked better. Cf. Mulholland Falls.) She also covers a vast range, from histrionic sexual frustration to understated anguish and from playful humour to blazing anger. All of her scenes are nothing short of mesmerising, for instance the powerful fit in the bathroom (scary intensity!) or the meeting outdoors with Sol (Adam Goldberg). Just look at her reaction when Sol says John is a very lucky guy.

Last but actually first, the chemistry between Connelly and Crowe sparkles and sizzles, but it’s never in the least overdone. The lovely stargazing scene is an obvious example, but so is that crucial episode when she remains with him in spite of Rosen’s, or indeed John’s own, advice. Lesser actors – and a lesser screenwriter – would have made a slushy mess from a scene like that. Not so here.

The supporting characters are rightly kept in the background: greater development of them would have resulted in a lesser movie. Nevertheless, they do benefit from excellent performances. Christopher Plummer is memorable as the slightly sinister Dr Rosen. You might be taken in, almost, that he is a Russian spy. (The action takes place at the height of the Cold War, after all.) Paul Bettany, who married Jennifer Connelly shortly after the shooting was completed, gives a finely nuanced performance as the “prodigal roommate”. It’s a luxury to have Ed Harris in so small a role. I have never found him less than impressive, whatever the screen time, and so is the case here. Josh Lucas is a lot less accomplished actor, but he turns out an eloquent performance as the arch-rival who proves a best friend in the end.

I expected nothing short of superb direction from Ron Howard. That’s exactly what I got. He seems to have a really uncanny sense for the most effective visual angle. Capturing John’s shaking body between Rosen and Alicia during the shock therapy is a case in point. Haunting image! He plays along the screenwriter and conceals the delusional side of the story as long as possible, though at several key points, with the benefit of hindsight, he does suggest it. You can spot those moments by the slightly more abrupt camera movement. Watch out for them.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the movie is visually spectacular. The scenes in Princeton are breathtakingly beautiful. Obviously a lot of effort went into sets, costumes and lighting. It shows, and it’s marvellous to watch. The music by James Horner is the perfect soundtrack: always effective and never intrusive. (I’m sorry I’ve rather overused the word “perfect” in this review, but no other word will do.)

I can only be sorry for people who find this movie “lacking in humanity”. Either they have lost their own humanity altogether, or they have a hopelessly rosy idea of it. Poor souls! What a real hell or a fake heaven their world must be! To the rest, hopefully in the majority, I cannot recommend this cinematic work of art highly enough. Even if you don’t like it, which is of course possible, you will be taught a valuable lesson. Next time you see people talking to themselves, be gentle. Their world is not necessarily a paradise.

PS It’s fascinating to watch the nearly 27 minutes of deleted scenes included on this DVD edition. I can well believe Ron Howard it was heartbreaking to cut some of this material, yet it was the right thing to do. Some scenes didn’t fit too well with the characters (e.g. John and Alicia kidding with a guy at the party or additional romantic scenes between them), others diluted the story or diverted the audience’s attention (e.g. Alicia’s investigating John’s secret work with Sol and Bender), and overall the movie was in danger of becoming too long. ( )
  Waldstein | Mar 20, 2017 |
The life of a schizophrenic mathematician.

The quintessential movie of it's type: heavy-handed Oscar bait. It tries desperately to pull emotional strings, but is so lacking in humanity that it never even succeeds in cheap manipulation. It's the cinematic equivalent of a suspended cymbal roll.

Concept: C
Story: D
Characters: D
Dialog: D
Pacing: C
Cinematography: B
Special effects/design: B
Acting: B
Music: D

Enjoyment: D

GPA: 1.8/4 ( )
  comfypants | Nov 26, 2015 |
mathematic, insanity, movie, genius, novel prize
  aidenella | Sep 7, 2015 |
Won four Academy awards. Period. ( )
  wdjoyner | Sep 17, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Howard, RonDirectorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldsman, AkivaScreenwritermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bettany, Paulsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Connelly, Jennifersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Crowe, RussellActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, Edsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hirsch, Juddsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horner, JamesComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Horner, JamesComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nasar, SylviaOriginal booksecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Plummer, Christophersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rosenfeld, IsadoreActorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Deakins, Roger A.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grazer, Briansecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dramatic biography of John Nash, a mathematical genius, who made an astonishing discovery early in his career and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash soon found himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery. After many years of struggle, he eventually triumphed over his schizophrenia, and finally, late in life, received the Nobel Prize.… (more)

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