A Beautiful Mind (2001) – Ron Howard

The four time Oscar winning film, A Beautiful Mind, is the next film mentioned on the Ten Films It’s Painful To Like in Ten Bad Dates With De Niro. Now, with five Oscars under its belt, it can’t be that painful to like, yes it rather simplifies mental illness, but conveys it wonderfully on screen. It scored Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Jennifer Connelly who I have crushed on for decades.

The film is a bio pic of genius mathematician and schizophrenic John Nash, it documents his life and his dealing with mental illness (though the audience may not now what it is until the reveal) and overcoming it with the love of his wife (Connelly) and winning the Nobel Prize in 1994.

Struggling through all of it, he accepts work in cryptography, and his world becomes a nightmare as shadowy figures, led by Parcher (Ed Harris) seem to stalk him.


Crowe turns in a solid performance, one that garnered him an Oscar nomination, and Howard turns out a great, if emotionally manipulative film – though you can argue that all films are manipulative, this one was just called out on it.

The film features a stacked supporting cast including Christopher Plummer, Paul Bettany, Anthony Rapp, Josh Lucas, Adam Goldberg and Judd Hirsch, but Crowe is very much front and centre in this film, and it rests very easily on his shoulders as Howard brings Nash’s life to the screen.

The love story between Nash and Alicia (Connelly) is gentle, and believable and creates a beating heart for the film that keeps it and Nash as grounded as they can be, even as his mental illness threatens to dominate his life.

Featuring a romantic score by James Horner, it’s very easy to be swept up in the beauty of the film, and let it wrap you up in the narrative and performances. And that’s kind of the point of movies as entertainment. So it shouldn’t be painful to admit you like it, even if you know you are being manipulated by it. Perhaps there’s a mathematical equation to it.

In fact, there is something almost Capra-esque about Howard’s storytelling in this film, and it suits it. One could argue that it does mental illness a bit of a disservice, but when I first saw it all I knew was that it was a bio pic, I had no idea that Nash had schizophrenia, so that reveal halfway through the film had a big impact on me, and I was happy to see it portrayed on screen in a cinematic, and informative way.

We’ll see what Ten Bad Dates With De Niro brings me next time.


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