I hate math. I've always hated math. It gives me a pounding headache. It would take a miracle to convince me of its value. But A Beautiful Mind has accomplished the impossible; after watching the film, I have a new appreciation for math as an art, and for mathematicians as artists.
Seldom do movies contain enough power to influence or change our convictions. Through enormously convincing performances, a masterful screenplay, and aggressive direction, this movie takes us on an extraordinary journey into the mind of a fascinating character, providing insight on its unique subject. Move over Good Will Hunting, here comes the ultimate movie about a math wiz!
Based on a true story of a mathematical genius, A Beautiful Mind introduces us to a very complex individual in the form of John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe), who began as an unconventional student at a prestigious college. Nash made an astonishing discovery early in his life and found himself on the brink of international acclaim, then married the love of his life (Jennifer Connelly), and later was diagnosed with a severe case of schizophrenia.
It's a memorable expedition from sanity to insanity and back again. A Beautiful Mind is a warm, determined, and encouraging holiday treat from director Ron Howard, who completely earns forgiveness for some of his past misfires and expands into new, innovative ground. It's one of the best movies of the year, and one of Howard's most effective film achievements.
Russell Crowe's Academy Award-worthy portrayal of Nash depicts the character's external existence, but Ron Howard examines his internal character with an even greater edge. Howard, directing a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman, defines the character through vivid examples instead of plodding narrative. In one scene, Nash mingles with acquaintances at a bar. A group of flirtatious young ladies walk in. Instead of cracking obscene jokes with his friends, or approaching the women with bad pickup lines, Nash calculates and articulate mathematical techniques on how to address the women and earn their affections. (I'll have to try this sometime.)
When he examines articles or numerical problems, the solutions visually jump out of the paper. We get a feel for his thought processes thanks to Howard's dazzling direction. The camera circles John's head, creating a sensation of ideas whirling around in his mind.
And this is the closest I'll ever get to understanding solutions to complicated math problems. But A Beautiful Mind isn't really about math. It's about the genius of John Nash, and the complexity of his brain as he struggles with himself.
I always thought math could drive a man crazy. This story proves my theory correct.
The Beautiful Mind DVD is loaded with extras -- two discs worth, in fact -- and the highlight is Ron Howard's feature commentary along with his comments about about 20 minutes worth of interesting deleted scenes. Even if you don't think the film is worthy of being named the best picture of 2001, you'll probably find a new respect for the movie somewhere in this disc set. (That said, footage of Nash's real-world Nobel Prize acceptance is not going to do it.)
The writing's on the window.