Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Movies #8 - A Blemished Mind

Biopictures are debatable. There are/were most certainly lives on Earth that are/were eventful, that movies based on their real life accounts could have been very interesting. But the fact is, in most cases, the screenwriter omits some truths, cooks up something and tweaks something else to cater to the theatre audience. Do the writers owe any moral responsibility for such editing and twisting? As long as the character is not portrayed in bad light, I guess, nobody is guilty though there is no denying that there is some amount of deception involved.

I watched A Beautiful Mind recently. Akiva Goldsman has written for screen based on a book about John Nash's life. Nash is schizophrenic, but he didn't have any visuals - he heard voices when nobody spoke; voices that kept talking to him for years. Of course, Ron Howard has the capability to realize such malfunctioning on the screen, but I don't think many would be glued on to their seats in watching Russell Crowe react to pure voices. So, as per the movie, Nash has people he can see, but none other can.

Nash is a homosexual and has been criticized and censured for making lewd comments and advances in men's rooms (in the 50s and 60s - think about it). He's straight in Goldsman's version. Alicia, his wife, divorced him in 1963 and John had intimate relationships with others; after a few years they both started staying together (though in a non-romantic way) and very recently they remarried. The movie paints Alicia as a steadfast wife who stood by her husband in times of trouble. Well, as the title of this post suggests, everyone has their shortcomings, so in a manner of speaking, every mind ever born is blemished. But to picturize something 'as is' is called 'art' and that doesn't augur well for the mainstream movie industry.

Because of some of these decorations, there are things praise-worthy here: To begin with, Russell Crowe. There are few actors who can do serious roles in Hollywood with such dedication. Though he doesn't shine in other genres, his lack of versatility is overshadowed by his performances in serious dramas. 'The Insider' comes to my mind immediately, along with 'Gladiator', 'Master & Commander' and 'Proof of Life'. IMDb says that when Crowe invited Nash for a cup of tea to personally watch and learn from his mannerisms, Nash stood there and thought about it for 15 minutes shaking his hands. Hmmm... a similar scene in the movie works very well, and now I know why and how.

Deakins' camera is spot on most of the time - we see the characters from the best position there is to observe the interactions. Horner's music is soothing and adds a depth to Ron Howard's direction, which is mostly flawless. Though the movie deals with Nash's mental distortions, his eventual triumph over his own mind and the effective contribution of his genius mathematical skills to the good of the world is a wonderful statement of love - between the couple. In reality Alicia's magnanimity and John's fidelity is beyond question. And that is why the movie works.

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