‘A Beautiful Mind’ on TCM

I write about A Beautiful Mind, that film that finally earned Ron Howard his long-anticipated Oscar, for TCM. I confess, I’m not a big fan of the film, but it’s a perfectly respectable Hollywood drama.

Ron Howard is the kind of success story Hollywood loves: an adorable child actor who made a seamless transition to young adult star but who really wanted to direct, and did, working his way up from ambitious super-8 films shot on actual Hollywood sets through the Roger Corman school of practical filmmaking (where he made Grand Theft Auto [1977]) to popular comedies (Splash [1984], Parenthood [1989]) and colorful fantasies (Cocoon [1985], Willow [1988]) without ever losing his reputation as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. For all his commercial success, however, he never really got much respect as a serious filmmaker, even after his more-than-respectable Apollo 13 [1995]. It didn’t happen until A Beautiful Mind (2001).

Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly

The project, based on (or, more accurately, inspired by) Sylvia Nasar’s biography of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., was not necessarily the most obvious choice for an uplifting tale of perseverance and triumph over adversity. Nash, a pioneer in the development of game theory whose work in the area of pure math is hardly the most cinematic of subjects, was a brilliant eccentric diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and mild clinical depression in 1959. The film spans almost 50 years in the life of Nash, from his days as a socially withdrawn and awkward student at Princeton to his tenure teaching at M.I.T. (where he met his future wife, Alicia) to the erratic behavior that led to the diagnosis of schizophrenia and his struggle with the incurable condition that he learned to confront. What’s not in A Beautiful Mind is much of Nash’s more extreme and at times hostile behavior under the influence of his condition: the child he fathered and then abandoned before his marriage, his affairs (with both men and women) and his divorce from his wife.

The film plays on TCM early on December 29. Read the complete feature here.