A Beautiful Mind (Universal Pictures) MPAA: PG-13 Runtime: 134 min
Review by Ernest Lilley
Directed by: Ron Howard
Can a film about a mathematician with delusions and a lack of social graces win the hearts of moviegoers. Could anyone possibly relate to such an awkward misfit?
Besides Science Fiction fans, I mean.
Well, yes actually. Audiences like it quite a bit. More or less grown up audiences, I'll admit, but Russell Crowe's portrayal (which is quite like the real person, we hear) of 1994 Nobel Prize winner John Nash (pioneering analysis of equilibria in the theory of non-cooperative games) at the hands of feel-good director Ron Howard, has no trouble drawing viewers into Nash's community of friends (not all real), his marriage (to a beautiful wife, played by Jennifer Connelly), the world of cold-war intrigue, and the inner world of his mind.
I think it's a pretty impressive attempt to show the inside of genius to those of us who can only look on it from the outside, and simple special effects are used deftly to show, tantalizingly, Nash's ability to perceive patterns, which makes him, as Ed Harris's G-Man character says, "The greatest natural codebreaker I've ever seen."
Nash reminds me quite a bit of Neal Stephenson's character in Cryptonomicon, Lawrence Waterhouse, set in just about the same time period. In fact it would surprise me if Neal hadn't been inspired a bit by the real Nash. Readers of the book can be assured they will enjoy the movie, and if you haven't read the book, take a look at our 1999 review in the Aug-Sep ' 99 issue of SFRevu.
I will not go so far as to say this movie makes me want to be crazy. Like As Good As It Gets, in which Jack Nicholson portrays an obsessive compulsive writer, the portrayal of Paranoid Schizophrenia delivered by Russell Crowe, who had been previously seen to have a beautiful body in Gladiator, makes his condition intriguing, if not on the whole attractive.
On the other hand, I've heard that members of the mental health field don't like the way earlier treatment of schizophrenia (insulin shock therapy) is shown, or the way that Nash overcomes his disorder through reason and the support of his wife and friends. Or the way he goes off his meds when they get inconvenient.
I understand their feelings, though I think that for the most part, it's really the way things went. Of course the movie is a glamorized, compressed and simplified version of the real story, which we get some glimpses into in Nash's autobiography on the Nobel Prize site (John F. Nash). Towards the end of the film, Nash does say that he's taking the "newer" medications, and at no time does he ever come across as quite "normal", so I'm not sure they should gripe.
They're probably related to muggles.
A Beautiful Mind had a limited release in the last days of 2001, making it eligible for an Oscar for that year. I'm sure that both the film and the star will have their share of nominations, and hopefully John Nash will be able to add another award to the prizes his life has afforded.
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
John Nash: Biography and Retrospective:
Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr., Winner of the
Nobel Prize in Economics, 1994 by Sylvia Nasar
Economist and journalist Sylvia Nasar's biography of John Forbes Nash is, by all accounts, a "must read." Though schizophrenia had been regarded as an abyss from which none return, the very real life of John Nash and this account gave many the tangible evidence they needed to resume hoping. The story itself has been praised for its novelesque quality and insight into genius, madness and love.
Essential John Nash by Harold Kuhn (Editor), Sylvia Nasar (Editor)
Hardcover - 244 pages (December 2001) Princeton Univ Pr; ISBN: 0691095272
Check out this book at: Amazon US / Amazon UK
This is a collection of papers and writings assembled by Harold Kuhn, a longtime friend and colleague of John Nash, along with Sylvia Nasar, the author of A Beautiful Mind.
Kuhn wrote a preface for the book, as well as a number of introductions to papers and essays which place them in context for us.
From the inside flap: John Nash has attracted enormous popular interest over the past few years. In many ways, the notion of equilibrium in game theory that bears his name is the central concept in game theory, which has led to a revolution in the field of economics. This book, by bringing together Nash's work in game theory and in mathematics, will allow readers to appreciate the scope of his work." (David M. Kreps, Stanford Business School)