There is, in fact, relatively little I can say about the movie. It is well made technically. The acting is usually tolerable and the writing is rarely truly execrable. It is also entirely predictable, occasionally hammy, and often manipulative. While none of these faults are so severe that they make A Beautiful Mind unwatchable, their presence, as well as the film's mediocre virtues, prevent it from rising above the average made for television drama.
In truth, the director both recycles numerous incidents from countless other movies and coats these occurrences with layers of schmaltzy sentiment. The ways in which the hero's delusions are shown to be destroying his life and hurting those he loves are false and melodramatic. The manner in which the protagonist eventually learns to overcome his psychological problems is irksome and contrived. Even Howard's attempts to elicit feelings of compassion and sympathy for Nash's loving, dutiful wife, who sticks with the paranoid mathematician throughout his troubles, are so inspirational that they are just sickening.
Sadly, the director does not compensate for his story's shortcomings by including any particularly well crafted characters. His ham-handed efforts to create likeable and engaging individuals have instead produced only unctuous, irritating bores. Nash himself is a pleasantly graceless, charmingly quirky eccentric. His wife is a strong, devoted woman. His friends are vague non-entities who are helpful or hurtful as is appropriate for a given scene, and so on. All of these persons are painfully uninvolving
What is more, none of the film's performers excel in their portrayals of these individuals, although few of the actors are dreadful either. Crowe is generally competent, although it is doubtful that he will be able to convince many viewers that he is a bookish mathematician, and Ed Harris is consistently entertaining as a stereotypically gruff government agent. Even Jennifer Connelly, who is, unfortunately, frequently wooden, is never so bad that her presence is especially distracting.
I will concede that some moviegoers may be bored by the clichéd ways in which the narrative's various elements are presented, but, while Howard never displays any real originality, he is never grossly inept either. The film is pedestrian, but it is not abysmal. It is, in fact, no better or worse than innumerable other inspirational biographies that have come before it.
If the viewer can overcome his awareness of A Beautiful Mind's many faults, he may even enjoy the film. Several of the details of Nash's life are actually nicely handled. The man's imaginary adventures, for instance, are presented with much of the flare and style of a thriller from the period in which the movie is set and are genuinely fun to watch. The film may be irritating at times, but, thanks to the presence of such elements, it can also be entertaining.
Although there is nothing memorable about A Beautiful Mind, it is, on the whole, a pleasant diversion.
Review by Keith Allen
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