Movie Review

A Beautiful Mind

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material, sexual content and a scene of violence.

Reviewed by: Erik Maxwell
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
2001
USA Release:
December 21, 2001
Featuring: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly, Adam Goldberg, Paul Bettany
Director: Ron Howard
Producer: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard
Distributor: Universal Pictures

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a persistent and uncontrollable anxiety in certain life areas. I have been diagnosed with this condition. For me, my anxiety comes in not talking “just perfectly” or typing“just perfectly,” or even in reading or thinking just perfectly. Right now, the typing mistakes that I am inevitably making are driving me crazy, but I am trying very hard not to let them bother me. Often I find myself on the verge of nervous breakdown, facing great difficulty in simply concentrating on something that becomes so stressful.

Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind” John Nash (Russell Crowe) in Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” also suffers with a disorder. He has schizophrenia which makes him see and interact with people that only he can see, in short because they are figments of his imagination. For me, “A Beautiful Mind” is remarkably therapeutic. Nash faced a much more serious problem from mine, yet was able to overcome his difficulties and go so far as to win the Nobel Prize! The overwhelming message of this film is that people can get better, and as Nash’s wife Alicia (Jennifer Conneley) says, “I have to believe that something extraordinary can happen.” And it does. Believe me—it does.

Nash is one of the elite number of people who attended Princeton University in the 1940s. While attending, despite slacking off and not attending classes, he manages to turn in a paper to the Dean so revolutionary that the Dean claims it brilliantly disagrees with the past 150 years of economics. As flattering as this is, Nash’s life doesn’t get better. A member of the Department of Defense, Parcher (Ed Harris) meets up with him and, recognizing his genius, appoints him to the daunting task of scanning major U.S. periodicals on the lookout for coded messages from the Russians hidden in their articles. Nash works 24 hours a day, often without food, reading and rereading publications such as “The New York Times” until thousands of clippings, all marked up, are posted up throughout his home office.

Of course, it’s a secret mission he’s involved in. Parcher warns him not to divulge his work to anyone—not even his wife. But when Alicia finally does discover his work, things take such a mind-bending turn that it makes the hair stand on end.

Without giving away any more plot, Nash is ultimately diagnosed with incurable schizophrenia and finally decides to confront his demons—no matter how hard this may be.

“A Beautiful Mind” is truly a masterpiece of acting, directing, and writing. While scenes of Nash’s breaking down may be too intense for young children, this film is perfect therapy for anybody searching for inspiration. It provides truth that people CAN and often DO get better. I left the theater happier… lighter… less desperate, with the realization that there truly is no reason why hope should cease. Is this a Christian virtue? Certainly. The subtle message being taught is that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” While “A Beautiful Mind” doesn’t come right out and say it as such, this film is certainly one of the most spiritual I’ve encountered. It serves as an excellent choice for anyone who believes that one should never stop wishing, hoping, and praying for healing. This film is truly a gift and has my vote for “Best Picture of 2001.”

Thanks to modern day science, there is medication for my disorder, and time has come when I must take it. I thank God every day for it. May this film serve as a reminder to pray for those suffering with illness.


Viewer Comments
Neutral—I’ve come to approach “based-on-fact” movies with a high degree of skepticism. They are rarely factual (there is a difference between factual and “based-on-fact”) and they seem to glorify people who rarely deserve to be glorified. This one is no exception and Hollywood had a heyday! In this movie, Nash is a single graduate student at Princeton, when a mere game, involving resultant rejection by peers, seems to have triggered his paranoia/schizophrenia (1948-51). Still, he solves some great unsolved equation while a graduate student at Princeton, thus occasioning his addition to the M.I.T. faculty, as partial reward (and ultimately a Nobel prize). Actually, the real John Nash was well out of grad school at Princeton—and on the M.I.T. faculty—AND married to Alicia when he became “paranoid schizophrenic” (in 1959). At Princeton as a temporary member of the Institute for Advanced Study, he managed to solve a problem involving partial differential equations, which had remained unsolved beyond the case of 2 dimensions.

Unbeknownst to Nash, he had been working in parallel with Ennio de Giorgi of Pisa, Italy. De Giorgi was actually the first to solve the problem, at least for the case of “elliptic equations.” It is this occasion that seems to have sparked the beginnings of Nash’s delusions. Faced with NOT being the first to solve the problem, AND with having to share mathematics’ prestigious Fields medal, Nash’s considerable ego and self-reliant intellect apparently chose NOT to cope with these “shortcomings.” So, Nash did NOT overcome his paranoia/schizophrenia to achieve Nobel-greatness.

The delusional mental disturbances actually originated AFTER Nash’s Nobel laureate work, AFTER he was married and while wife Alicia was pregnant. As a consequence he resigned his faculty position at M.I.T., spent 50 days under “observation” at the McLean Hospital, and even traveled to Europe attempting to defect and gain status there as a refugee—which was “politically-correct”-ly left out of the movie. (Don’t want to destroy the movie audience’s delusions of this man’s greatness). It’s actually sad and pitiable that the man was so acclaimed and rewarded 44 years after the fact, and has nothing since that fact to show for those 44 years. Then 52 years after the fact, a movie is made endearing a perceived accomplishment and, albeit, bittersweet life. Nash’s has actually been a rather pathetic life. He spent the vast majority of it deluding himself, ultimately because he had relied too heavily ON himself—and failed—as all such men do. It’s a shame that he never came to rely on his Creator.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Berford, age 49
Positive—If you have not seen it, it is a good movie. The acting is superb, especially of the roommate and “big brother”. One nit is the title. As for his mind, perhaps Arrogant, Confused, Proud, Stressed, Paranoid, Perceptive, Unfriendly, or Troubled would fit; but Beautiful? I suppose irony is in view, but this is like titling Terminator 1: “A Friendly Visit”. As Hollywood often takes great license with the truth in general in such movies, we decided to look up Dr. Nash’s self-written bio on the Nobel Web site. The movie depicts him as not really recovered in later life, but merely keeping the delusions at bay.

This rings true with his self-written bio, as you can see at:www.nobel.se/economics/laureates/1994/nash-autobio.html The second to last paragraph, especially, implies that being deluded is actually a good thing in terms of mental abilities and significance. With some further collaborated research, the “rest of the story” is not so heartwarming for the actual Dr. Nash. He had a child named John in 1953 with Eleanor Stier whom he refused to marry. Dr. Nash refused to support the child who was eventually given up to foster care. The real Dr. John Nash was fired after getting arrested in a homosexual sting operation in 1954, after two failed homosexual relationships. It was “intergalactic aliens”, not Russians, whom he believed were sending coded messages through the popular press. He did marry Alicia Larde from South America in 1957 whom he also had a child with, and who was also named John. But Alicia eventually divorced Dr. Nash after he tried to defect from the US in Europe. For this movie, the real Dr. Nash’s life-story has been significantly Hollywoodized. The movified plot was indeed heartwarming. Pity the actual life.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Dean and Laura VanDruff, age 41 and 31
Positive—Good acting by Russell Crowe who really holds this picture together. Despite some make-up flaws (due to poor lighting) he always seems real as he ages approx 45 years in this film. Watch particularly the scene where the actor Austin Pendleton, as a Nobel committee rep, comes to see him. There’s a look of fatigue in Crowe’s eyes that is entirely believable. The aspects of his schizophrenia are handled in a way that is both respectful and artistically satisfying. This is Ron Howard’s best film to date. One of the most fascinating films to come out this year.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Jimmy, age 29
Positive—I first have to start off by saying that I can’t disagree more with the reviewer’s moral to this story. As emotional as this story is, it can be easy to have an overly emotional reaction which could cause one to read spiritual overtones into this movie. Spiritual, it’s not. It is a brilliantly told (albeit highly whitewashed with Hollywood dramatization) story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable circumstances. Christ, however, is totally left out of the picture causing the viewer to believe that all power to overcome is from within. This may actually be a subtle overtone of eastern philosophy. My advice: go see the movie, just don’t think you’re going to get a spiritual lesson from it.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Eric, age 29
Positive—If you want to be entertained by a feel-good love story, this movie is not for you! If you want to bring kids to see a “clean” movie, don’t bring them to see this movie, because this movie deals with adult themes. It is essentially about a man who overcomes severe schizophrenia and is able to lead a “normal” life despite his illness. This illness is very real, people. There are people out there who have this disease, which is a disease of the mind that often cannot be “cured,” although it may controlled with medication and other treatments in real life. What the movie brilliantly does is that it draws us into the perspective of Nash, so we, like him, believe the illusions he sees. Because we see things from his perspective, we empathize with him and learn to have compassion on people who have this disease. However, the plot tends to drag at times due to the long time period of the plot. It was nice to see a healthy marriage (or should I say healthier)…
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—Esther Krushnisky, age 21
Negative—I really wish that I could say this movie glorifies God, but it clearly does not. At the end when he is giving his speech he says that, “After all the logic I have studied… love is the only answer.” I thought that he might say something about God. Even after mastering the logic, he still has the deep longing for satisfied passion. In real life, he would not be satisfied with math or from love found in a human, but found in the Almighty Creator, Alpa and Omega, God. I hate to give it a negative rating, but it is a post modern liberal film.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Mac, age 19
Positive—I give A BEAUTIFUL MIND a moral rating of excellent for the simple reason that it portrays—and takes as a central theme—the real meaning of marriage as a vow before God, for better or worse. There are some very dramatic scenes and a few short moments with some profanity or sexual talk—however all are appropriate within the dramatic needs of the story being told. It was not gratuitous in any way. I took both my teenage daughters (age 13 and 15) and felt comfortable with what they saw. This is not a Christian film in any way—but it is not disrespectful of Christians either. I felt Ron Howard is deserving of praise for holding up an obscure eccentric math professor as a real and true hero. I cringe at most of the cinematic poison Hollywood inflicts on our kids… but in the case of this film, every admission paid sends the message that wholesome and uplifting films are wanted.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4½]
—Richard Schmitz, age 46
Positive—“A Beautiful Mind” was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen! I even had an epiphany as I watched it. I’ll admit, it started out a little slow, but it was far from boring. I appreciate a movie that can engage me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Plus, the acting was superb! I have much respect for Russell Crowe, who showed his versatility in playing the role of a mathematician, just a few years after he convinced me he that he was a real gladiator. Furthermore, “A Beautiful Mind” would be excellent for psychology and theology classes. It demonstrates fear (False Evidence Appearing Real), true love, the power of the human will, and deception in a way that would bring text book material to life.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Richard O. Coleman, age 23
Positive—This movie is definitely NOT intended for children. There are several references to pre-marital sex, as well as several references alcoholic escapism. The movie does not explore nor entertain the idea that that Nash’s hallucinations could be demons or minions of the devil. Nash does not turn to God ultimately for help with his problems. However, in spite of all these shortcomings, the underlying message is inspiring. This is a true story of a brilliant but troubled individual. My fiancee and I were personally attracted to the film because it involves the subject of mathematics. We were pleased with the delicate blend of technical matter, drama, etc. Though it is never a strong argument for recommending a film, one must consider the other mindless tripe which is pouring out of Hollywood these days. From the previews of other movies, the impression I gather is usually that they are also delicately blended films: just the right blend of sex, violence, impropriety, civil and social discontent, moral relativism, secular humanism, and anti-Christian themes to appeal to the hoi poloi.
My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Daniel Gullo, age 32
Neutral—The acting was good. But I must say this was the most boring movie I have seen in a looooong time! It was so boring that I would have walked out had it not been for my husband (He never wants to walk out no matter how bad a movie is). I don’t know why there has been so much praise for this movie. I cannot stress enough how boring it was. Go see The Majestic. Go see Kate and Leopold. Go wash your car. Anything would be more interesting than this dud!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3½]
—Rena, age 36
Positive—This is one of the best movies I have ever seen! The story line includes a biblical view of married love on the part of John Nash’s wife. One of the scenes actually had me in tears. There are a few obscenities in the movie, however, and this movie would not be one for children. Ron Howard has done an excellent job of producing this movie and I highly recommend it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Diane, age 45
Positive—An amazing look into the life of mathematician, John Nash. Acting was incredible, casting was great. It was both touching and humorous throughout. Highly recommended, with the same objections as the previous person mentioned (some graphic/explicit language). Would not be suitable for children or even younger teens due to the realistic depiction of mental illness and its treatment.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Romaine, age 47
Positive—This movie deserves all the recognition it can get. Again, Russell Crowe gives an outstanding performance as the tormented Dr. John Forbes Nash, Jr. Jennifer Connelly also gives a remarkable performance. This film, directed by Ron Howard, is touching without being sappy and is a somewhat frightening view into the world of mental illness. There are a few objectional things in this movie, mainly language. But even then, there is not much of that at all either. This is simply a well-made, beautiful film worthy of viewing!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Anon., age 27
Movie Critics
…2 religious profanities, 11 religious exclamations…
—Kids-in-Mind
…a compelling tale with some terrific and touching individual moments… arguably the best performance of the year…
—ScreenIt!