Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sh!#ting on the Classics: A Beautiful Mind

2001 was a horrible year for America because a small group of fanatics conspired to attack the soul of our nation. Those fanatics? Ron Howard, Akiva Goldsman, and Russell Crowe. Their crime against humanity? A Beautiful Mind.

The year 2001 was a miserable year for movies, one of the worst years in the history of the medium. My theory? As it approached, the creative people in Hollywood knew that the real year 2001 could never measure up to the 70mm future presented in the iconic film favorite 2001: A Space Odyssey.  This depressed them. Their work suffered.

Here is my proof. Witness the endless turd parade that was 2001: 3000 Miles to Graceland, America’s Sweethearts, American Pie 2, The Animal, Bubble Boy, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Chocolat, Corky Romano, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Dr. Dolittle 2, Freddy Got Fingered, Glitter, Joe Dirt, Josie and the Pussycats, Jurassic Park III, KPAX, Moulin Rouge!, Pearl Harbor, Planet of the Apes, Pokemon 3, Shallow Hal, Town and Country and The Wedding Planner.

I guess compared to Monkeybone, A Beautiful Mind is a masterpiece!
A Beautiful Mind tells the “inspiring” story of real person John Nash (Russell Crowe), a brilliant mathematician studying at Princeton University who, it becomes apparent, suffers from mental illness. Nash winds up teaching at MIT, he marries lovely graduate student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), and his paranoid schizophrenia gets worse. He figures out that his best friend (Paul Bettany) and his CIA boss (Ed Harris) do not really exist — they are hallucinations. Surprise! Through sheer force of will, Nash puts the brakes on his crazy train and wins the Nobel Prize.

That’s about it.

This would be a very inspiring tale if any of it had really happened. I realize that a film is allowed to take certain liberties in bringing a true story to the screen, but the liberties these filmmakers have taken are, pardon the pun, insane. So the film winds up coming across as a series of comforting lies. Comforting lies were exactly what people were in the mood for in the wake of the very real 9/11.

A romantic viewer might ask, “Wasn’t his wife supportive and sweet?” Well, they actually got divorced during the timeframe the movie depicts. They later remarried after this film was released.  Go figure.

“Gee! That pen ceremony where all the scholars present Nash with their writing instruments as a sign of respect was so moving!” It never happened. There is no such ceremony at Princeton University.

“How about that Nobel acceptance speech?” Nash never actually delivered a Nobel acceptance speech.

“Boy! What a surprise when three main characters wound up being hallucinations!” Never happened — the real Nash had auditory hallucinations, not visual hallucinations.

“What an interesting, human story!” Wrong again: in real life, Nash was a sentient komodo dragon.

Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the idea.

Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman changed everything that did not fit their preconceived notions of shitty, stereotyped drama. The real Nash was only able to return to teaching because he stopped taking his medication after 1970. Director Howard changes that important fact because he didn’t want ACTUAL SCHIZOPHRENICS SEEING THE FILM TO STOP TAKING THEIR MEDS!

It seems at times as if screenwriter Goldsman was trying to out-crazy The Sixth Sense. “Oh, Bruce Willis is already DEAD? Well, we have THREE characters that never even fucking EXISTED!”

It does not help matters much that Ron Howard is one of the worst filmmakers of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. His films are vanilla pudding without the vanilla — old-fashioned, bland, colorless pabulum with no texture, no flavor, and no nutritional value of any sort for human beings. Yes, yes! I hear you. I know Ron Howard directed Apollo 13. I also know that Howard is the auteur responsible for Gung Ho, Willow, Far and Away, The Paper, EdTV, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Missing, Angels and Demons and The Dilemma.

Russell Crowe’s ridiculous “molasses and marbles” accent reminds one of Robert Downey Jr.’s admonition in Tropic Thunder to “never go full retard.” To mark John Nash as “different” and “special,” Crowe indulges in the worst actor’s tricks of lousy elocution. Nobody on earth talks like that, except a Crowe chasing an Oscar. At times it seems as if Crowe is attempting a horrid Sean Connery impression, or perhaps John Huston. It does not help matters that his dialogue is hopelessly overwritten:

Jennifer Connelly delivers her patented “dead-eyed sex robot” performance, which earned her an Oscar. To explain how on God’s green Earth that ever happened, I can only assume that money changed hands. Or robot sex.

The film is a ride, but after the reveal, we go nowhere. The reveal is not illuminating; it serves no purpose other than to make us feel tricked. What is the point of this film? “Dude, sucks to be crazy,” I guess.

I also harbor the vague suspicion that this film’s popularity has something to do with our nation’s rabid anti-intellectualism. If John Nash was a genius, and I believe he was, the film suggests that a) he is to be feared because he is BULL-GOOSE LOONEY and b) one must never develop one’s mind because LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT POOR GUY.

NOTE: There were a few films the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might have wanted to honor before bestowing Best Picture on A Beautiful Lie: 2001 also boasted the films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Ghost World; Gosford Park; Heist; Memento; Monster’s Ball; Monsters, Inc.; Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Royal Tenenbaums.

BETTER YET: The PBS documentary A Brilliant Madness tells the real John Nash story in a compelling and truthful fashion.


  1. Akiva Goldsman has already earned a place in cinematic hell for "Batman and Robin". The Academy had a massive brain fart when they did nominations that year.

  2. And he wrote "Lost in Space" too! A holy trinity of disappointment.

  3. To be fair to Akiva though, he's written and directed what I'm told (don't know, don't watch it) some pretty good episodes of Fox's "Fringe" for the past few years. He's also an executive producer for the last two "Paranormal Activity" movies, which have their good moments.

    But you're both right, Goldman's atrocities against filmed entertainment (producing "Hancock" and "Jonah Hex," writing "I Am Legend" with its two massively-compromised endings, screenplay credits for the already-shitty "The Da Vinci Code/Angels and Demons" novels, etc.) far outnumber his positives. I mean, "Batman & Robin" alone has earned this man a spot in cinema hell FOREVER!

    That said, and despite JB being right about everything he wrote (as usual), I don't harbor against "A Beautiful Mind" as much resentment as I do toward other vanilla-flavored Ron Howard movies like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (awful) or "Far and Away." Yes, the movie's sanitizing of the real John Nash's life (particularly his bisexual love affairs) is awful. I blame Hollywood and society's inability to accept heroes and/or lead characters that aren't mainstream though, not Howard or producing pal Brian Grazer (who are trying to get a movie greenlit in a liberal town that's afraid a bisexual crazy man in the lead will keep box office receipts heading south). Nash's aural hallucinations had to be visualized, this is a motion picture (kooky sounds/voices will have rendered the movie a cliche' horror spectacle instead of a drama) that needed the 'hook' of the made-up characters to show the audience how truly mad and disturbed Nash was. Finally, as a movie filmed/shot in chronological sequence to the story (very rare) I actually think Connelly and Crowe get better as the movie unfolds. Jennifer has a limited range, but within that range I think she gives as good a performance in "A Beautiful Mind" as she could. Is it Oscar worthy? Nomination maybe, but what are you going to do?

    One of my favorite TV shows, "Dexter," actually dipped into the "A Beautiful Mind" bag of tricks last season with terrible results. The actual idea (not used on the TV show) of Dexter Morgan putting himself though the same journey of self-actualization (i.e. rationalizing his way out of being who he is) that John Nash did to stop his hallucinations and become a normal man again is how I would end the "Dexter" TV program. The idea of a psychopath serial killer reasoning with himself to stop being who he is so he can be normal has so much more dramatic potential than the much-desired 'Dexter gets caught' ending everybody else wants. I call it Dexter's 'Beautiful Mind' theorem of quantum physics, and probably will not be how the show's writers end their run. Oh well, a guy can dream!

  4. I like Josie and the Pussycats. And I would rewatch Monkeybone FIVE TIMES before I would ever rewatch A Beautiful Mind. F this movie.

  5. Hey JB, you forgot to add Rush Hour 2 & John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars to the 2001 turd parade. (We went from Kurt Russell & Rowdy Roddy Piper as the main heroes of Carpenter flicks to one-note stiffs like Natasha Hendstridge & Ice F'N Cube!)

    Memento was by far the best movie of 2001. I guess the Oscar idiots thought it was just another low budget indy smash with a clever "gimmick" that wasn't in the same league as another over-produced & overwrought Ron Howard production.

    BTW, F Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide for giving Memento only 1.5 stars out of 4!!!! Whoever wrote that review (Maltin doesn't write all the reviews, so he could be innocent on that one) should have their critic license revoked. F this Movie Guide!

  6. OK, I'm going to play the "I'll watch anything" game and suggest that you revisit Willow, because YOU DID NOT JUST DISS WILLOW.

  7. I have a vague memory of enjoying "A Beautiful Mind" and my girlfriend/spousal equivalent (who may or may not actually exist) brought it up recently as a movie she would like to see again. Screw that I guess!

    It really is foul play when a movie pretends to be a "true story" and then substantially changes the details of that story (I'll give Fargo a pass because (a)it was sort of a joke and (b)it was just so fucking awesome) but yeah, if you have to dramatize a story that much to make it interesting/more suitable for a Hollywood movie, then maybe you shouldn't be making the movie - I had no idea so much of A Beautiful Mind was bullshit. Thanks for enlightening me JB - apparently I can't trust Hollywood for my history lessons!

  8. If you hated the movie so much before, you will absolutely detest it after reading the original book "A beautifl mind" by Silvia Nasser. Here they had a chance to tell the world, the story of this once-in-our-lifetime mathematician and how they butchered it. I don't think any of the people involved in the making of this film actually read the book. They literally looked for the "Dramatic" incidents in the man's life, created shitty subplots around them and viola they had a movie. The thought that came to my mind when I Saw the film 10 years ago was, "is this it?". Surely, this can't be all of the man's life if he is regarded with such respect around the world. And now that I am reading the book, whose author, seems to have gone the extra mile in collecting information from literally dozens of people connected to Dr. Nash ( even a landlord of one of Dr.NAsh's many rented apartments), I really get an idea of the man's greatness.
    The whole movie was just a lazy effort, and a really insulting one at that, thinking that the general audiences would rather look for falsified, cliched garbage than perhaps if a little tedious, the actual events in the life of a brilliant man.