A film about John Nash, the genius mathematician with severe schizophrenia could have been brilliantly interesting. I think it’s a good film, but not as brilliant as it perhaps could have been.
Russell Crowe plays the mathematician in his greatest role to date. He won is best actor Oscar the year before for his role in ‘Gladiator’, but this is the stronger performance. The film traces his life from college onwards taking into account his relationship with Jennifer Connelly, his workings with the government and finally his winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.
The acting in this film is solid throughout. As well as Crowe and Connelly, we are also witness to strong performances from Ed Harris, Christopher Plummer and Paul Bettany and they all make the most of what they are given.
We are also given an insight into how the mind of someone with schizophrenia works and although he is rude and dismissive, we find ourselves seeing him as the hero and wanting him to succeed against the odds. It’s largely true, but film viewers tend to support the underdog and the Academy is certainly no exception, with so many underdogs from ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ to ‘Slumdog’ triumphing.
What irritates me about this film is similar to the irritation that I have with ‘Braveheart’ in that the film makers have taken a perfectly good true story, changed it to make it more Hollywood and then sold it off as a true story. There are so many aspects of Nash’s life that were so interesting and yet were omitted to make it more user friendly. The story with his wife was given a sense of romantic naivety. She was his first love and then they lived happily ever after. This is nonsense. He had a previous wife and child and Connelly’s character left Nash when things got difficult. Now that is a story worth telling. Nash was also arrested for soliciting in a toilet, yet his homosexual tendencies are totally left out of the film. Now, I understand that every aspect of someone’s life cannot be portrayed in a two hour film, but I feel that I was almost lied to in ‘A Beautiful Mind’. I almost do not mind being lied to if it makes the story more interesting but why pretend that the couple lived happily ever after if that wasn’t the case.
The storyline regarding the workings with the government I also feel is a bit over the top. At times I feel the schizophrenia storyline is bypassed in order to make the international spy storyline more accessible with more action sequences than were really necessary.
In short, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ tells a good story and is acted well. But the story told is nowhere near as interesting as it could have been had they been more truthful and not glamorised it for the Hollywood audience.