Directed by: Ron Howard
Written by:Akiva Goldsman
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Ed Harris, Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany
Released: March 7, 2002
Grade: A-

Named best picture at the Golden Globes and favourite for this month’s Academy Awards, the hype initially left me with a pessimistically negative impression.  Thanks to the media’s spin and  multi-million dollar advertising campaigns, film circles have concluded (incorrectly I might add) that the only two films worthy of being called the year’s best are The Fellowship Of The Ring and A Beautiful Mind.

When it comes to selecting the best of the year, it’s often a fine line and it irks me that films like In The Bedroom, Moulin Rouge, Gosford Park and Mulholland Drive are snuffed into the background as if “inferior” competition.  A Beautiful Mind is an impressive film but in the company of those mentioned above, is nothing special.  I guess this seems like a harsh comment to make to a film worthy of an A- but please do correct me if I’m wrong.

It’s the commercialism of A Beautiful Mind that gives it the appealing edge in the public’s eye.  It’s “based” on the true story of Dr. John Nash, played in the film by Russell Crowe.  In 1947, Nash’s genius earned film a full scholarship at Carnegie University where he developed his talent in the field of mathematics.  On graduating, he then attended the prestigious Princeton University and published a paper on analysing the equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games.  This theory became a cornerstone in the world of economics and won him the Nobel Prize in 1994.

In the 40 years between the development of the theory and its award-winning acceptance, Nash’s life was not the spectacular one that many envisioned.  Following Princeton, he went to M.I.T. which was where he met his wife, Alicia.  They married in 1959 but soon after it became apparent that Nash was suffering from schizophrenia.  His mind, once his greatest asset, was now his greatest foe and could not be replied upon.  For much of the next twenty years, he spent time in and out of hospital trying to make sense of his delusional theories.  Even today, Nash struggles with this incurable mental disease but his grit and determination has seen him battle the condition and come up a winner.

There’s been conjecture in the press that the film overlooks the important detail that many believed Nash to be a homosexual.  The film’s producers decided against exploring this aspect of Nash as they thought audiences may link schizophrenia with homosexuality.  This insults our intelligence.  Aside, Akiva Goldsman’s (The Client) screenplay brilliant captures the horrors of the disease and the haunting effect it can have over someone.  As director, Ron Howard (Apollo 13) begins slowly with a rather dull introduction but when the film enters the later chapters, it finds its feet and its purpose.

Compare Russell Crowe’s performances in Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind.  Astonishing achievements for a man who is poised to win an Oscar for both roles.  Low-profile actress Jennifer Connolly (Requiem For A Dream) is on a par with Crowe’s dazzling efforts and rounds out a well defined ensemble with Ed Harris and Christopher Plummer.  Specific praise goes to the make-up crew who age our characters over the film’s 50 year time frame, the costume designers for Crowe’s inventive clothing collection and composer James Horner for a career reviving musical score.

A handful of scenes were too melodramatic making it unnecessarily clear a cosmetic brush had given the film a little Hollywood touch up.  Still, the finished product is an important achievement and essential viewing for those looking for a strong, emotional story.  Just why though, did they have to go and spoil it by calling it the year’s best?