“I find you attractive. Your aggressive moves toward me… indicate that you feel the same way. But still, ritual requires that we continue with a number of platonic activities… before we have sex. I am proceeding with these activities, but in point of actual fact, all I really want to do is have intercourse with you as soon as possible.”
At the 2002 Oscars, A Beautiful Mind won for Best Picture. A Beautiful Mind won for Best Director. A Beautiful Mind won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. A Beautiful Mind was also nominated for Best Actor. You know what movie seems to have been pretty much forgotten in 2015? A Beautiful Mind. It’s not uncommon for the Oscars to get it wrong, but in a year when I don’t think that was necessarily the case, it is rare for a movie so recent and so lauded at the time, to be so un-talked about now. And now that I have finally seen A Beautiful Mind, I really don’t get that un-talked aboutness.
It’s the late 50s, and maths genius John Nash (Russell Crowe) has scored a spot studying at Princeton. A little quirky, but not a total nutbar, he spends his time between hanging out with nerdy maths friends, hanging out with his partying room mate (Paul Bettany as Charles), and trying to create his own, original mathematics theories and formulas. His genius is solidified when he creates a new concept of governing dynamics, initially used to help pick up chicks.
Tapped by the government to help crack Russian codes during the Cold War, he is stationed at MIT where he meets Alicia (Jennifer Connolly). When not getting caught up in the gun fights and car chases that come with his covert government work, he’s romancing Alicia, who he eventually marries. Just as his life seems to be perfect, it’s revealed that his spy life might not be all it seems.
I went into A Beautiful Mind expecting a standard, tortured genius story. Pretty much just more of the same that I got in last year’s great, but not really ground breaking The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything. And for its first act, that’s exactly what I got. Then the spy story kicked in, and I loved that unexpected turn. Then, about half way through, it turned again, in a way that I was in no way expecting, and in every way made this movie so much more than just another tortured genius biopic.
And as the last portion rolled out, I realised that this movie had grabbed me early on and totally kept me for its entire running time. The way the character of John Nash learns to overcome his adversity is beautifully triumphant and heartbreakingly tragic all at the same time. And for a movie that I have always assumed was pandering Oscar bait fluff, it always managed to avoid that and surprise me in some way.
A pretty common criticism of Ron Howard as a director is that he’s anonymous, a journeyman with no individual style or flare. But I think his ability to get out of the way of his story is one of his biggest assets. Here, he lets Russell Crowe’s version of John Nash’s ticks and quirks be the centre of attention. He gives the fantastical and crazier aspects of the story room to breathe. And with a story like this, getting out of its way is exactly what A Beautiful Mind needed.