A Beautiful Mind (2001)

(In theaters, January 2002) The first few minutes of this biography of mathematician John Nash are simultaneously painful and interesting, as a reasonably exciting portrait of a top-notch scientific mind is hampered by the “asocial scientist” clichés so beloved by Hollywood. Then the movie takes a turn for the bizarre as Nash becomes subject to increasingly complex schizophrenic disillusions. Alas, as the film started focusing on Nash’s mental illness, I realized we were headed toward TV-movie-of-the-week territory. It’s irrelevant that Russell Crowe turns in another award-caliber performance, or that Jennifer Connelly has never looked so good (and that’s saying something!); once again, Hollywood goes for the easy target, the touching story of someone who has to overcome his handicap with love and determination. The last half-hour of the film becomes more and more difficult, as there is a palpable sense of distorted narration, half-truths and easy answers. Indeed, reading about Nash’s “real life” (his bisexuality, his repeated hospitalizations, his attempted escape to Europe) quickly reveals how much the movie sugar-coated the truth. It’s a bit of a shame, again, how the most visible cinematic portrait of a scientist once again drips of anti-intellectualism; it wouldn’t be so bad if the film didn’t try to generalize from it (“two helpings of brain, and half a helping of heart”, etc…) Still, it’s not a bad film; though long, it’s not without interest, and even funny at times. (Though my funniest moment happens as an imaginary character pouts at being called a “disillusion”.) If you’re the type of viewer who goes nuts for nuts…

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