NB the latter part of the plot description gives away some of the major plot twists
Mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe) becomes desperate to make an original contribution to his field while at Princeton in the 1940s. His only friend, room-mate Charles Paul Bettany), is full of encouragement for him. Nash is socially inept, but does go to the local bar occassionally. While eyeing up some girls with his acquaintances, he hits on the idea which directly challenges Adam Smith’s long-standing economic theory. The resultant paper earns him a place at the Wheeler Institute, part of the Massachusetts Institiute of Technology (MIT).
A few years later he is recruited by the Pentagon to do some code-breaking for them. In turn, secret agent William Parcher (Ed Harris) drags him into classified cold war work.
At the same time, he teaches at the institute, and becomes taken with one of his brighter, and more persistent students: Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). They marry, but his classified work begins to seriously intrude on his ordinary life. The now pregnant Alicia becomes increasingly worried about and by his behaviour.
Whilst giving a lecture, he is spooked by some men, and runs away. They give chase, and it turns out they are the assistants of Dr Rosen, a psychologist. Rosen sedates Nash, and reveals to Alicia the extent of Nash’s madness. The classified work is a fantasy, Parcher and Charles (and Charles’ niece Marcee) are all figments of Nash’s mind.
Nash receives insulin shock therapy, and eventually returns home to Alicia. His medication dulls his senses and thinking processes, so he stops taking the tablets. His delusions then return. He is forced to recognise his delusions, and asks the Princeton faculty if he can work at the college.
Years pass by, he works more and more with students, and is eventually awarded a Nobel Prize in 1994.
This is really a very mediocre film, quite patchy in places, the first hour is very run of the mill stuff, not at all of much interest. The music swells tellingly to re-inforce a point here and there, but on the whole there is little to draw your attention. Things do improve a bit once Nash is recruited by the Pentagon, but even he remarks that the work is somewhat boring.
The film is based on a biography of Nash by Sylvia Nasar. Various critics have commented that this biography glosses over Nash’s real live homosexual leanings and encounters. Certainly, little (if any) of that is shown in this film.
One positive thing though, is that the acting is not bad in places. Indie has been assured by someone who has worked with schizophrenics that Russell Crowe’s portrayal of Nash is accurate with regard to the shuffling walk and other tics that schizoid people have. Also, that there is a distinct difference between the behaviour of Nash on medication and Nash without. So all credit must go to Crowe for that. Ed Harris is not bad either – he looks like Jim Carrey’s alter ego in ‘The Mask’ (but without the green face) at times. But as usual he turns in a very solid performance. Jennifer Connelly as Nash’s wife Alicia has the easiest role – but lots of emoting and crying do not an actress make – we can all do that. Connelly claims to have met with the real life Alicia and asked whether “there was anything she wanted to show, or not to show, about the character in this film”. Don’t know what the answer to that was!
The ending is particularly sick making – a very sappy Nobel prize winning acceptance speech, accompanied by a standing ovation and lots of tear inducing music – really! By this stage Nash points out that the delusions are still there, but that he has grown used to ignoring them. Hmmm…..
No doubt Russell Crowe will win plaudits for his portrayal of the less than perfect human John Nash (he’s gained a BAFTA already), but tugging at the heartstrings by playing a ‘disabled’ human should not be the clear route to an Oscar® that it seems to be. It has certainly worked well for: Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Jane Wyman (Johnny Belinda), Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), Jack Nicholson (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Jon Voight (Coming Home), William Hurt (The Kiss of the Spider Woman), Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man), and Daniel Day Lewis (My Left Foot) to name but a few! So watch out you nominees in contention against Russell Crowe for this film (and Judi Dench in ‘Iris’) – the scales may be tipped against you already.
Patchy quality, the second half is much more gripping than the first. Is it really an award winning performance from ‘The Gladiator’ Russell Crowe?
If you like this film…
Russell Crowe performs much better in the renowned ‘The Gladiator’. Another excellent film he was in (though most of us probably didn’t realise it at the time) is the excellent ‘LA Confidential’.
Mathematics feature in ‘Pi’, which didn’t get a lot of screen coverage in the major cinema circuits sadly.
For heartstring tugging stories about less than perfect human beings try ‘Shine’ (all about pianist David Helfgott), Forrest Gump (an Oscar® statuette for Tom Hanks – say no more), or ‘The Eighth Day’. This latter film stars the delectable Daniel Auteuil, who befriends a young man with Downs sydrome. A brilliant movie it is too.