Howard's enda beautiful mind directed by Ron Howard, written by Akiva Goldsman, based on the biography by Sylvia Nasar, produced by Brian Grazer, with Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris and Paul Bettany. 128 minutes. A Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures production. A Universal release. Opens Friday (December 21). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 77. Rating: NNNa beautiful mind offers oscar-winning gladiator Russell Crowe a chance to snag a second consecutive Academy Award. After all, he's portraying real-life mathematical genius John Forbes Nash Jr., who suffers from schizophrenia but through sheer determination keeps his demons at bay to win a Nobel Prize. Wow. Crowe gives a strong performance -- imagine Forrest Gump with bulging biceps and an off-the-chart IQ -- but he does struggle with the slightly lilting southern accent.
He plays Nash over a 50-year period, from his school days at Harvard, where he makes a brilliant discovery that keeps his eccentric behaviour in perspective. One doesn't want to give away too much of the plot, because filmmaker Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Backdraft) has orchestrated some nifty twists.
Howard is the guy's feel-good director, and this tale of a man overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle is a good match for his storytelling skills. At first, because the movie feels clunky and mannered, you think he's making a botch of things, but it soon shifts gears and hits its stride.
If you're familiar with Sylvia Nasar's biography of Nash on which this film is based, you may curse Howard's impulse toward simplification. In reality, Nash was and is a very complicated man. He wasn't a stereotypical geek (in fact, he had a way with the ladies), and he faced his share of marital woes. In the film, Nash's wife (Jennifer Connelly) is remarkably understanding and steadfast.
If Howard had trusted the viewer a little more and presented Nash's contradictions, this good film could have been great.IRCunning craft
iN THE BEDROOM directed by Todd Field, written by Field and Richard Festinger from the story by Andre Dubus, produced by Field, Ross Katz and Graham Leader, with Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl and William Mapother. 130 minutes. A Good Machine Production. A Miramax release through Alliance-Atlantis. Opens Tuesday (December 25). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 77. Rating: NNN
why do certain critics heappraise on movies where nothing happens? This question comes to mind whenever a colleague launches into a rave for the latest Abbas Kiarostami film, but it also arose when rapturous approval began to be heard after Sundance for Todd Field's debut film, In The Bedroom. David Edelstein at Slate.com called it the best American movie in years, a bit of hyperbole that he could only have meant if he spent 1999 (Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, Three Kings, Fight Club) in a cave.
Here's the set-up. Late-adolescent son (Nick Stahl) of a good family (Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek) takes up with local single mom (Marisa Tomei). Her abusive estranged husband (William Mapother) takes exception and kills him. The film then -- after many, many long silences and recriminations -- turns into a Sundance version of Death Wish, with an eighth of the action and 10 times the guilt.
In The Bedroom is exquisitely crafted, makes judicious use of its pastoral Maine setting and features performances by Spacek and Wilkinson (whom most will remember as the moneylender/producer in Shakespeare In Love) that have people crying Oscar. Working from a short story by Andre Dubus, Field explores the anxious fury of the bereft parents with delicacy and intelligence.
At one level, I know I should like this film better than I do. On another, the emotional precision of the performances makes me wonder if a copy of Swordfish is in at Blockbuster yet. Its cheap, dirty thrills promise far less hypocrisy than this film, which works quietly to rouse the audience to genteel bloodlust, then makes us feel guilty about our natural impulse toward catharsis.JH