Monday, July 21, 2014

Retro Review: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

                                This 'Beautiful Mind' Could've Used A Little Less Or More Makeup
                     We have seen plenty of films about mental illness over the years, but I feel that it is rare where we have a film about a mental illness that focuses a little less on the illness at hand. A Beautiful Mind falls more on the latter category rather than the former.
             A Beautiful Mind follows the true story of a mathematician named John Nash (Russell Crowe) who, since his days at Princeton University, has slowly developed paranoid schizophrenia and eventually thinks there is a conspiracy involving the Soviets. As his condition worsens, his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) tries to bring him back into reality.

           While I may have found the film to be problematic, I did think that Russell Crowe's performance was quite good. Some of his best scenes involve the use of his eyes. When his illness kicks in, they begin to widen and have you asking what he'll do or if he'll do something horrific. I also thought Jennifer Connelly was quite brilliant. Some of her best scenes are the ones where she is at her most quiet. In those, you can definitely get the sense of how desperate or flustered she is. It is actually a pretty transcendent performance, I would say, because she goes from being a rather sultry colleague to a loyal wife that tries to ground his husband back to reality, and I love seeing performances where the performer undergoes a quiet character arc.

           Well, one thing that I had to struggle with was suspending my disbelief over the idea of Russell Crowe playing a college student, or at least his character in his college days. They didn't CGI his face or anything like that to make him look younger, but it still seemed somewhat unrealistic, in my opinion.

           Another thing that bugged me about the film was how it was a bit too sugarcoated. I felt that even though the film is about a guy who has a mental illness, the illness itself almost felt like a footnote. The film focused a bit more on the love story angle between John and Alicia, as well as John's mathematical genius and the whole imagined conspiracy involving the Soviets. It comes off as the film saying "Yeah, he has a horrible illness but he is such a brilliant mathematician and has a loving and supportive wife" and it becomes a bit too mushy and sentimental. Plus, the film definitely was a bit longer than it needed to be.

        Overall, A Beautiful Mind is an incredibly well-acted yet overly mushy drama. I would say if you want to watch a brilliant film about mental illness and how it affects one's family and doesn't just focus on its love story, watch Silver Linings Playbook instead. But if you like Russell Crowe or Jennifer Connelly or are even a fan of director Ron Howard's work, then I would say why not give it a watch. The acting is good and Howard's direction is also.

Grade: C+