As I compiled a short list of must-see movies for last week’s
column, I realized I’d better get around to watching the four-time Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind if I wanted to add a new title to my list. Based on an inspiring true story and featuring the fantastic Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly as the two leads, the film seemed destined for success. But as A Beautiful Mind dragged
into its second hour, I found it turning into a truly
beautiful, but disappointing, mess.
Anyone who has studied higher levels of economics (I’m
talking to you, CMC) will have heard of the Nash Equilibrium, a mathematical theory discovered by John Nash. The theory states that each individual in a group will do best by factoring in each member’s
decision, or so was my basic understanding—sincere apologies to you cringing
economists and mathematicians for my extreme oversimplification.
A Beautiful Mind depicts Nash’s life story, focusing on his creation of the Nash Equilibrium and on his genius, yet highly
complicated, mind. The film begins with John’s first day of graduate school at
Princeton, during which the commencement speaker asks which one of the university’s new students will discover the next groundbreaking theory. The
camera pans the room before settling in on our main character, John Nash, the
mathematical genius, and clearly answers the question.
The rest of the first act spans John’s college
days as a misunderstood, yet passionate, outcast with one true friend: his quirky
and polar-opposite roommate, Charles. I instantly felt sympathetic
to John’s disconnect from the world around him and his manic frustration with the lack of a mathematical breakthrough, yet I was unable to empathize with his
character. Perhaps if the film had dug slightly deeper into his “beautiful
mind” rather than simply showing his constant scribbling of numbers, I would
have felt more of a connection.
The next chapter depicts John after making his
award-winning discovery: the Nash Equilibrium. Through many disjointed and
scattered subplots, we grasp a tenuous understanding of John’s life as a
researcher, professor and decoder. While some of these plot strands seem necessary to the introduction of new characters such as his love
interest, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), others fall flat as the film merely skims
their surface. This chapter feels like a rush to move
into the film’s most dramatic and acclaimed moment: the jaw-dropping revelation
that hits about halfway through the movie.
As not to ruin the main intrigue of A Beautiful Mind, I
will merely say that the first half and the second half of the film feel
extremely disjointed, though each is interesting in its own way. I waited for the plot to delve deeply into something throughout the first half, and throughout
the second half, I found myself waiting for some sort of resolution. Neither was
truly granted in a certain or stable manner until the very end of the film, when
John appears as the old man that he is today.
It is hard for me to believe that such a seemingly
disorganized film could win so many awards and be praised by so many critics. The film has many touches of intrigue and character development, yet
few of its characters are fully developed, and the plot constantly jumps from one thread to the next
and then lingers there for 15 minutes too long. It seems as though A Beautiful
Mind impressed because the story it depicts is so
awe-inspiring that it doesn’t matter that the film itself is not.
With that being said, I would, perhaps surprisingly, still recommend
watching the film. I cannot put it on my must-see list because it is not a
movie that I would watch again, but John Nash’s intriguing life, the plot’s
dramatic twist and the impressive acting merit a viewing. So instead of
studying for your economics final, turn on A Beautiful Mind and learn about
John Nash and his hauntingly brilliant brain.
But don’t believe me, just watch!
Sawyer Henshaw SC ’17 is a media studies major. Believe it or not, the film columnist wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies until she was 17 years old.