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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 11:37 GMT
Crowe's beautiful film
Russell Crowe as John Nash
Russell Crowe: "Film makes us open our hearts"
By Peter Bowes in Hollywood

After winning the top prize at the Golden Globe Awards, A Beautiful Mind has been catapulted into the favourite slot to be named Best Picture at this year's Oscars.

The Ron Howard-directed film stars Russell Crowe as the mathematical genius, John Forbes Nash Jr, who wins a Nobel Prize despite his life-long battle with schizophrenia.

The biopic's account of Professor Nash's struggle with schizophrenia is moving and sensitive to the plight of people with the debilitating mental condition.

It explores the awkward concept of someone with a brilliant mind who is outwardly insane.

Crowe treads the fine line, with an apparent understanding of the dichotomy that few films on the subject have managed to achieve.

Ageing

Fans of Crowe as General Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator will hardly recognise their hero as the sensitive academic who is plagued by mysterious voices.

The actor's eyes dart around like a madman's, although there is always the sense that a gentle, sane human being is lurking beneath the surface.

Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly
Crowe and Jennifer Connelly: Both Golden Globe winners
The make-up department deserves plaudits for its subtle ageing of the character over decades.

"A Beautiful Mind is just a movie," said Crowe as he accepted his Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama.

"It's just a piece of entertainment at the end of the day, folks. But hopefully it helps us open our hearts, gives us a little more understanding, gives us a little more compassion and also hopefully it gives us the belief that in our lives something extraordinary can always happen."

Crowe was wrong in one respect. The film is more than entertainment. It is truly an educational experience.

Demons

As the actor hinted, it serves to lift a dark veil that hangs over so many suffers of schizophrenia - exposing them as sensitive human beings with a capacity for brilliance.

John Nash's early life was plagued by his hallucinations. For many, the condition can mean a lifetime of confinement in a mental institution.

It is a mark of Nash's amazing strength of character, that he managed to get his demons under control.

The film includes scenes of his darkest days - when he thought the Russians were trying to send him coded messages - and the happier times when he goes on to scale academic heights few would have thought possible.

Jennifer Connelly's performance as Nash's wife Alicia is every bit as award-worthy as Crowe's.

Long-suffering and helpless to assist her struggling husband, the character is played with passion and understanding by Connelly. The actress's Golden Globe award looks certain to be followed by an Oscar nomination.

Improvisation

Since gaining a higher profile and generating considerable so-called Oscar buzz, there have been mutterings in Hollywood about the film's lack of authenticity.

It is true that the picture is made up of scenes which never actually happened in the life of John Nash.

The film makers have been up front about their improvisation - preferring to tell a story tweaked by Tinsel Town and merely "inspired" by the experiences of the professor.

Much has also been made in the US press about the film's failure to make reference to Nash's alleged homosexuality.

With this in mind, Crowe may be right. It is just entertainment at the end of the day.

But there is no escaping the fact that A Beautiful Mind is an enlightening experience and arguably Ron Howard's best work to date.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Lawson
"He plays it as autism rather than schizophrenia"
See also:

22 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Crowe and Ryan romance 'damaged film'
26 Mar 01 | Film
Crowe leads Gladiator to glory
22 Feb 02 | Reviews
A Beautiful Mind: Your views
26 Feb 02 | Reviews
A Beautiful Mind: Press views
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