tek's rating:

A Beautiful Mind (PG-13)
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Caution: spoilers.

This came out in 2001, but I didn't see it until 2017. It's based on a real mathematician, John Nash (played here by Russell Crowe), though some elements of the story are fictionalized. It begins in 1947, when John arrives at Princeton University. He has a sort of academic rival in Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas), and he also meets some other students, including Richard Sol (Adam Goldberg), Bender, and Ainsley Nellson (Jason Gray-Stanford, whom I know from Monk). None of them seem to particularly like him, which is something he's used to. (Although later on, it seems more like friendly teasing than genuine dislike, as they do at least hang out in a bar together.) But there is one person who definitely becomes John's friend: his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who... at first I didn't particularly like, but he does grow on you. Anyway, John apparently never attended his classes, and I have no idea whether he did any assignments. He just spent all his time trying to come up with something original. I'm no mathematician, so I can't say I understood anything about what he was trying to do, I just know he was clearly obsessed. And there was a professor or advisor or whatever named Helinger (Judd Hirsch), who eventually let him know this wasn't really working out.

Meanwhile, we do once see the guys convince John to try to pick up a woman in a bar. He is really terrible at it, which I attribute to something I'd noticed about him from the very start of the movie. It seemed to me as if he was on the autistic spectrum. The movie says no such thing, and apparently the real John Nash wasn't. That's just how it seemed to me, from my own place on the spectrum. (But if you thought that's the reason I put my review under "mental health movies," you were wrong. The real reason for that comes later.) I just mention this... basically to try to excuse or explain something that happens later. I mean... as a neurodivergent person looking from the outside at neurotypical people "playing the field," or whatever... dating can seem like a game with rules that make no objective sense, but which seem to make sense to the players themselves. And for someone like John... being direct instead of playing the game can make him seem like an asshole. But anyway, there's a later scene at the bar where all the guys are interested in one woman, but not so much in her friends. And they're discussing some kind of... I think it was a financial theory that I know nothing about, like how to compete in business, or whatever. And they applied it to the problem of picking up women. And this led John to come up with an alteration to the theory. The way he described it in regards to picking up women was simple enough. I suppose the real theory, as applied in other fields, is more complicated. (And presumably a lot less misogynistic.)

Anyway, after John's mathematical breakthrough, the movie skips forward to 1953, when John is apparently the head of the Wheeler Lab at MIT. Or something. I dunno. At least, Bender and Sol are working under him, there, and apparently have been since graduation. And now, John gets called to the Pentagon to help crack some encrypted communication the Russians have been using. While there, he sees a mysterious person observing him. Later, he returns to MIT, where he is reminded that he is obligated to teach a class. One of his students is Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly), who eventually asks him out on a date. That seems kind of odd to me, I mean I'd expect there to be rules against that kind of thing. But hey, it was the '50s, what do I know? Anyway, they do go out. And they keep going out. And apparently unlike any other girl he's ever met, she likes his... directness. Which is to say, his inability to comprehend the "game."

Meanwhile, the mysterious figure he'd seen from afar at the Pentagon shows up at MIT, and introduces himself as William Parcher (Ed Harris). And he recruits John on a top secret assignment to use his codebreaking skills to find coded messages the Russians are sending to sleeper agents via magazines and such. And of course, John can't tell anyone about this, including Alicia, even after they get married. So that becomes a strain on their relationship. Also, Charles shows up again, and now he's the guardian to his young niece, Marcee, whose parents had died. And... man, I must be telling things out of order. Um... anyway, eventually a psychiatrist named Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer) has John committed to a psychiatric hospital, though I must say, I still have no idea how that came about. When I first saw him, I was under the impression he was working with Parcher, but I was clearly wrong about that. In any event, John thought Rosen was, like, a Soviet agent, or whatever. But Rosen later tells Alicia that John has paranoid schizophrenia. From this point on, I second-guessed pretty much everything that happened in the movie. So... it was confusing, or at least somewhat disorienting. (I should also say, this is the kind of movie that tends to make me question my perception of my own reality. Or whether there's any such thing as "reality." But... whatever, that's not important.)

Um... so anyway, there are some characters in the movie that maybe were never real, but only existed in John's mind. And other characters that were real, but as I say, I didn't want to take anything for granted. Nor do I want to reveal much more of what happens in the movie, I guess. There are more time skips, with the final scenes being set in 1994. And... I dunno what else to say, without spoiling too much. I do need to say it's all somewhat disturbing, and sad, and as someone who is prone to fearing for his own sanity, a bit scary. But the movie also has its happy bits, particularly in the end. So, whatever. I'm just glad to have finally seen it.


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based on a true story