This week's Golden Globe awards increased the chances that Ron Howard's film about John Forbes Nash Jr., A Beautiful Mind, will be this year's big winner at the Oscars. (Film Forum covered critical responses to the film a few weeks ago.)
While both the Golden Globes and the Oscars tend to reward crowd-pleasers over fine art, I feel compelled to voice a few reservations about this year's favored title. Sure, it tells an inspiring story. But is it, as it claims, based on a "true story"?
Nash, a Nobel prize-winning genius whose theories have altered Wall Street and changed how we understand mathematics, has won international fame in spite of a severe struggle with schizophrenia that tested his relationships. Beautiful Mind captures the madness of schizophrenia vividly, painting Nash's life as a long, arduous, but ultimately triumphant battle against his mental affliction. The movie credits much of his recovery to the power of true love. We see Nash, awkward and reluctant in romance, finally gaining confidence as a lover and husband in the arms of Alicia, a persistent, attractive young student (Globe-winning Jennifer Connelly). Their marriage weathers the tempests of Nash's maddening spells, giving the film its predictably soaring conclusion. Audiences are deeply moved, and many tissues are deployed
True-story movies almost always alter the facts for the sake of condensing events to a coherent storyline. But A Beautiful Mind is so far from the truth that it seems a crime they didn't change the names. It may tell an inspiring, predictable story not unlike a TV movie of the week, but it certainly isn't Nash's story.
In the film, we see Nash as reluctant and awkward. Alicia is the one who finally gets through to him. But the film leaves ...1