Ron Howard isn’t best known for serious dramas. Although he has been making features since 1978 and did direct Apollo 13, he is better known for comedies such as Parenthood and Cocoon. Howard also made the very soap-like Far And Away starring Tom and Nicole. You may well ask yourself why Howard decided to make a biopic about John Forbes Nash Jr, an economist who suffered from schizophrenia and won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994. Brian Glazer, who has produced many films with Howard, happened to read a compelling story about this unusual man in Vanity Fair and asked Akiva Goldsman (The Client) to write a screenplay.
The press, including the Star, has fully detailed the many facts avoided by A Beautiful Mind’s portrayal of Nash, notably his affairs with men and the fact his wife divorced him in 1963. All this could be fair enough if the film never said it portrayed reality. Unfortunately, Howard makes the claim in his production notes that he is portraying a real world and we approached this story as truthfully as possible and tried to let authenticity be our guide. Hardly. Or is authenticity for Howard making sure that Crowe wore the right type of cardigan?
Truth has never gotten in the way of Hollywood before so A Beautiful Mind has received seven Oscar nominations, including Best Actor for our (or New Zealand’s) Russ. The film has already garnered four Golden Globes amongst other awards. It is interesting to note that Jennifer Connelly, who brilliantly plays the endlessly loyal and loving-wife-at-all-costs, has received more awards than Crowe who has garnered all the publicity.
A Beautiful Mind is truly a fascinating story poorly told. It is another case of a flawed American genius with a dedicated wife who saves him through love alone. Howard is desperate for a new plot twist to reveal schizophrenia and this makes the film nearly fall over. The brilliant performance of Connelly and the strength of Crowe’s presence save the film from floundering. The film is well shot by Roger Deakins who has photographed many of the Coen brothers’ films. Some of the casting is strange: Ed Harris is again playing a shadowy operative and Anthony Rapp and Adam Goldberg (Dazed and Confused) still seem dazed and confused.
The most fascinating thing about A Beautiful Mind is how a reasonably well-made film comes to be praised as a masterpiece when clearly it is not. Then again that’s Hollywood for you.