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!
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.