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“A Beautiful Mind”

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“A Beautiful Mind” isn’t exactly what the trailer leads one to believe it is. It’s better. Much better.

It’s better. Much better. Yes, it’s about John Forbes Nash Jr., the mathematical genius. Yes, it’s about his quest to find “a truly original idea.” Yes, it’s about his work with the government as a code-breaker. But it’s so much more.

Aussie Russell Crowe, who plays Nash, deserves another Oscar (he won one last year for his role in “Gladiator”). His performance is alternately blunt and refined. He’s captured the nuances of both genius and mental illness.

He’s a man obsessed with many things, including the tension between competition and cooperation. He works through that dialectic in the film, applying it to everything from “getting girls” to economics to daily living.

Ron Howard delivers his best directorial work yet, surpassing even “Apollo 13.” Howard’s mechanism for getting a general movie-going audience to grapple with delusional schizophrenia is clever and effective. And with “A Beautiful Mind,” Howard moves beyond storytelling into the realm of conveying understanding of a man and his nightmare.

Furthermore, Howard has devised cinematographic ways of showing Nash’s code-breaking abilities and his genius with numbers, formulae, problems and solutions.

Akiva Goldsman’s script is doubly impressive considering it spans over 40 years of Nash’s life. Goldsman has relied on Sylvia Nasar’s biography of Nash to tell a story that is at times humorous and sad, especially during the middle of the film, when Nash’s life is crumbling right before the eyes of his wife, played by Jennifer Connelly.

Crowe’s Nash is at once awkward and quick-witted, dim and astute. And while this makes for a messy character, it makes for an interesting one as well.

The story moves in the same way. If you aren’t already familiar with Nash’s life, try guessing—an hour into the movie—where Nash winds up. Odds are you won’t be right.

Howard and Goldsman keep you off-balance, as unsure of Nash’s future as he and his wife are of the next moment.

An early scene shows Ivy League professors congratulating one of their own for superior achievement. As Nash observes their camaraderie and ritual congratulation, his advisor approaches him.

“What do you see?” the advisor asks.

“Recognition,” Nash replies.

“Try accomplishment.”

“What’s the difference?”

This quip illustrates not only clever writing, but the thoughts of a “beautiful mind.” And when the lights come up after this movie-going experience, there’s no doubt:

“A Beautiful Mind” deserves recognition for its accomplishment.

Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.

MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence

 

Director: Ron Howard

 

Cast: John Nash: Russell Crowe; Parcher: Ed Harris; Alicia Nash: Jennifer Connelly; Dr. Rosen: Christopher Plummer; Charles: Paul Bettany; Sol: Adam Goldberg.

Visit the movie’s official site at http://www.abeautifulmind.com

Buy Sylvia Nasar’s biography of Nash at Amazon.com!