A Beautiful Mind: Awards Edition
Universal Studios Home Video
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Adam Goldberg,
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Review by Gregory P. Dorr
Once America's favorite child star, Ron Howard has grown up into America's favorite childlike filmmaker one who obliviously distills complex scenarios, emotions, and relationships into pudding-like caricatures of reality. While it may be taxing at times to try to discern just how it is that such mediocre filmmaking can gain such laurels, it's perfectly easy to imagine any of Howard's films from Cocoon to Apollo 13 to his Academy-Award-winning monstrosity A Beautiful Mind pasting a giant grin across the gawking mug of innocent Richie Cunningham and eliciting a hearty "Gee whiz!" from the Happy Days crowd.
A Beautiful Mind is the by-all-accounts almost-100%-fictional recreation of the real life of Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Nash (Russell Crowe), who, bookending violent fits of delusional paranoid schizophrenia, conjured up a revolutionary theory on equilibrium. In a grand effort to suck all nuance from this fertile tale, Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman try to transform Nash into some kind of romantic hero: We see young Nash dreamily scribbling equations on his dorm window; we see shy Nash erecting breakthrough arguments while eyeing a sultry blonde across a crowded room; we see Nash embroiled in dangerous covert government code-breaking operations which, even though imagined by a disturbed intellectual shut-in circa 1950, appear to have been ripped from trite 1980s B-movies by the hack screenwriter of such clichéd tripe as Lost in Space and the last two Batman movies.
Howard adds his own special touch of thickheaded obviousness to the proceedings by illuminating Nash's processes with glowing numbers and magical light rays visible only to the super-smart and seriously disturbed, transforming Nash from the controversial figure he was in real life into a disabled-yet-ingenious Harry Potter of the academic set and with a buff Russell Crowe physique to boot.
Crowe is the best thing about this shallow, self-congratulatory biopic, even if his work here is below the standard of his prime performances in L.A. Confidential and The Insider. It takes a while to get past the physical miscasting of powerful Crowe into this meek and nerdy role. He has no trouble selling Nash's hyperactive intellect or the tolls of his mental illness two feats that would level most inferior actors but still Crowe's affected stuttering and mousy Rain Man-ish demeanor feel a bit labored and suspicious. Jennifer Connelly won a Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Nash's long-suffering wife Alicia, and also does a fine job given her limited role of being flirty/stern/sad/stoic in response to Nash's erratic behavior. Also on display are solid supporting performances by Anthony Rapp and Adam Goldberg, while talents like Ed Harris and Christopher Plummer are sadly stuck with silly, melodramatic roles.
Disc One of Universal's two-disc A Beautiful Mind: Awards Edition features the film in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Accompanying the feature are two facile commentaries (accessible only by navigating to the Languages menu), one by Howard and the other by Goldsman, and 26 minutes of unindexed deleted scenes with an introduction and optional commentary by Howard, most of which underline the director's pedestrian, sophomoric approach to the material.
The second disc in this package is filled with an assortment of extras that do little more than further expose the film's already apparent faults.
- A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (5:23), in which the producer/director team unflinchingly massage each other's egos.
- Inside a Writer's Mind (8:17), in which screenwriter Akiva Goldsman massages his own ego, with a little help from Grazer.
- Meeting John Nash The Nash Theory of Equilibrium (8:28), footage of Nash in action, in which you can see how unlike the real man Gladiator Crowe was.
- Accepting the Nobel Prize in Economics (1:57), in which we see real footage from the ceremony bestowing upon Nash the Nobel Prize, during which Nash delivers a heartfelt acceptance speech to his wife about oh wait, that doesn't happen. He quietly accepts his award and sits down.
- Casting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly (5:56), in which Howard speaks about his pleasure in working with his leading actors.
- The Process of Age Progression (7:14), in which make-up artist Greg Cannom explains the process of creating old-age make-up.
- Storyboard Comparisons for five scenes.
- Creation of the Special Effects (10:46), in which we find out how simple scenes can be turned into complicated effects shots.
- Scoring the Film (5:55), in which James Horner cranks out yet another serviceable, derivative score.
- Inside A Beautiful Mind (22:30), in which the film is promoted in standard EPK treatment featuring cast and crew interviews tied together by heavy-handed , disembodied narration.
- Academy Awards, in which we relive the thrilling victories of producer Brian Grazer, director Howard, supporting actress Connelly, and screenwriter Goldsman.
- A Beautiful Mind Soundtrack (:24), in which we are hypnotically persuaded to purchase tie-in merchandise.
Gregory P. Dorr
- Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1)
- Single-sided, dual-layered disc (SS-DL)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French), Dolby 2.0 Surround (English, languages)
- English and Spanish subtitles
- Commentary by director Ron Howard
- Commentary by screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
- 26 minutes of unindexed deleted material with optional commentary by Howard
- Single-sided, single-layered disc (SS-SL)
- "A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer"
- "Development of the Screenplay"
- "Casting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly"
- "Meeting John Nash The Nash Theory of Equilibrium"
- "Accepting the Nobel Prize in Economics"
- "The Process of Age Progression"
- "Storyboard Comparisons"
- "Creation of Special Effects"
- "Scoring the Film"
- "Inside A Beautiful Mind"
- Academy Awards clips and reactions
- Soundtrack promo
- Dual-DVD slimline keep-case
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