A Beautiful Mind

in Biography, Drama, Not-A-Dick Flicks

Best Ever. Period.

  • Stars: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly
  • Directors: Ron Howard
  • Writers: Akiva Goldsman (screenplay), Sylvia Nasar (book)

Every once in a while, there comes along a movie so perfect that you don’t want to watch it again for a very long time for fear of dispelling its particular magic.  “The Sixth Sense” is one of those movies.  “The Beaver” is another.

“A Beautiful Mind” makes that list.

Director Ron Howard’s film chronicles the life of famed mathematician John Nash beginning with his enrollment as a graduate student at Princeton in the 1940s.  A true genius, John (Russell Crowe) possesses little skill in the real world of human interaction.  “The Big Bang Theory” this is not – John doesn’t even fit in with the other geeks, and his painfully hilarious attempt to hit on a co-ed is absolutely true to life and not played for laughs (though the laughs conquer anyway).  Luckily, his easygoing roommate takes him under his wing, and John’s dazzling student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) is willing to overlook his social klutziness.

Eventually John is recruited by a mysterious government agent to perform highly classified work in cryptography, and what started off as a biopic of a genius takes an unexpected turn into high-octane spy film land.  To say more would give too much away.  But director Ron Howard handles the shift deftly, and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman’s bag of tricks is far from empty.  The film sucks you in and does not let go until the very last moment.

Crowe turned down the role of Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings” to do this film, and despite any financial regrets he may have, his decision was the right one.  Crowe’s performance is utterly stellar, layered, subtle, endearing, at times riotous, and heart-wrenchingly poignant.  This, rather than “Gladiator,” is what should have won him the Oscar, hands-down.

Paul Bettany and Ed Harris both stand out in their roles as the roommate and the government agent, respectively.  But Jennifer Connelly was cheated out of her due.  Yes, she won an Oscar and many other awards, but in the wrong category (Best Supporting Actress instead of Best Leading).  No one could watch this film and judge Alicia to be anything but a fully fleshed-out lead character, playing a crucial role in pushing the story forward from start to finish.  Despite an entrance that reeks of token female, Alicia does far more than look pretty and entice the star.  The story concerns her nearly as much as it does John, affording Connelly nearly as much screen time as Crowe.  Without Alicia, the story would fall apart.  And Connelly’s performance is every bit as nuanced, affecting, and powerful as her co-star’s.

I can only assume the powers that be promoted Connelly for Supporting Actress because they feared her being passed over for Leading.  Apparently the Screen Actors Guild agrees – Connelly was nominated as Leading Actress for the SAG awards.  For these reasons, DickFlicks has decided to override her numerous Supporting Actress nods, thereby awarding Connelly the rare title of Strong Female Lead and qualifying “A Beautiful Mind” as a Not-A-Dick Flick.

Most importantly, “A Beautiful Mind” reaches far beyond any such superficial labels to tell an achingly gorgeous story of human connection and fallibility.  This treasure goes down in the annals as one of the best films ever to have graced a screen.

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