Plot: What’s it about?
I wasn’t the only one who was glad when Russell Crowe didn’t win another Oscar for his performance in A Beautiful Mind. I know this. Crowe, a supremely talented and gifted actor, has also earned a reputation as someone who’s hard to deal with and based on an article I read in Entertainment Weekly…he seems like a real jerk. That aside, I will say that he did a great job in the film and had he not won a Best Actor Academy Award the year before (for Gladiator), he might have stolen it away from Denzel Washington (who won for “Training Day”). Much has been said about the film, which won Best Picture of the year and the content and about John Nash and his alleged homosexuality. Then again, this wasn’t a documentary, it’s a work of fiction (though it’s based on a real person). So that wasn’t much of an issue for me. Then we have Jennifer Connelly, who I always remember as the very busty girl from “Career Opportunities” and “The Rocketeer”. Connelly won an Oscar for her work here (as did Director Ron Howard), though I felt it was handed to her on a silver plate. Then again, it could just be me. Still, this is all opinion, let’s get to the facts and hear what the film is all about.
The first time we see John Nash (Russell Crowe), he is getting ready to attend Princeton on a scholarship. He meets his roommate, Charles (Paul Bettnay) who seems more intent on drinking and having a good time rather than studying. Nash is content on the feeling that he will discover a truly unique idea that will in some way, shape or form–revolutionize the world as we know it. He did. Granted he didn’t invent the cure for a disease or anything, but his theories did help shape the way things were thought of in the world of Economics. We see him as an awkward West Virginia boy who has little, if any, social skills and my instant reaction was to feel sorry for him. He eventually graduates and becomes a teacher and then meets and falls in love with his future wife (Jennifer Connelly). Had that been the story, it would have been a good movie, but rather dull and boring. We know that he eventually wins the Nobel Prize, but what happens in between is what is the most intriguing of all.
As Nash is in the prime of his career, he constantly sees three different people, yet we don’t know until later in the movie that he’s suffering from schizophrenia. His friends, Sol (Adam Goldberg) and Bender (Anthony Rapp) are from Princeton, work along side with him and understand his madness, even though he’s way beyond them when it comes to intelligence. A few fights aside, the movie tries to make a statement about the disease as opposed to tell the story of Nash’s life (perhaps it was too dull without this aspect of it, regardless of its truth). Nevertheless, Ron Howard has not only shown that he can make a critically-acclaimed hit, but he can make a commercially successful movie as well. While I don’t think the film should have won Best Picture, it was worth seeing. The DVD is bursting with supplements and at the very least, deserves a rental. Crowe is amazing in his transformation to John Nash and if nothing else, it needs to be viewed just because of his acting. It’s too bad he can’t be a nicer person.
Video: How does it look?
As much as I hate to give movies a “perfect” rating, I have to admit that “A Beautiful Mind” looks almost pristine. As you can imagine, the sheer scenery and wealth of images in the 1.85:1 frame are a lot to take in. The colors seem very natural and the black levels seem dead on perfect. I noticed no artifacting, no compression errors and no shimmering. For as many supplements that were on the disc, and no less than two 5.1 tracks, I was expecting it to take it’s toll on the picture quality. I was wrong. The picture is amazing and I really can’t find more words to convey my message.
Audio: How does it sound?
I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to find no DTS track on the disc. Universal has been at the forefront of releasing a DVD with a very strong Dolby Digital and DTS track on the same disc. However, with more audio tracks, it usually equals decreased picture quality and maybe the filmmakers thought that a DTS track wouldn’t have that much added bonus as to deter the picture quality. After all, it’s not like this film is made for audio! The Dolby Digital track that is included, though, is very rich and a good track. Dialogue is pristine as are the surrounds when they’re used. Several shots in the film have a literal 360 effect and it’s conveyed very well in the audio. No major complaints here, but no major compliments either.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Here is where the DVD really shines. We have two discs, and they’re both full of supplements. On disc one, we’re essentially treated to the film with two audio commentaries. Ron Howard provides a nice, witty and insightful commentary track and it’s recorded just after the film’s initial release. He shares the joys of working with Crowe and the subject matter, which some considered controversial. The second track is with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, who is a great writer, but I feel that he is given way too much face time on this DVD set. Still, his track concentrates more on the subject matter (naturally) and is another strong track. Listen to Howard’s if you have to choose between the two. Some thirty minutes of deleted scenes are also on the first disc and you can listen to them with or without commentary. They are shown in a non-anamorphic widescreen presentation and can be played all together or one at a time with an audio introduction by Howard. This brings us to Disc Two and most of its features are in the form of smaller featurettes, of which most are alike, so I’ll just name the titles, as we can pretty much expect what is on them by the titles. ôDevelopment of the Screenplayö, ôMeeting John Nashö, ôAceepting the Nobel Prize in Economicsö, ôCasting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connellyö, ôThe Process of Age Progressionö, ôStoryboard Comparisonsö, ôCreation of the Special Effectsö and there is even some footage from Oscar Night as we see Tom Hanks opening the envelope and announcing the film as the year’s best film. The usual cast and crew bios along with Production Notes are included as well. Several DVD-ROM features are attached as well, including some content that links to a website. I can’t help but to recommend the film and the DVD for at least a rental. True, it didn’t win Best Picture for nothing, but it wasn’t my pick. Still, Universal has done a fine job with the disc and it will no doubt become a part of many collections.