Jan 10, 2002

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind is one of those small dramas that we used to pejoratively refer to as a tv movie. We can't do that anymore because the best drama written today, by far, is found on tv.

This film has some wonderful moments. My favorites are when the hero, Nash, figures out his great economics theory by strategizing how best to pick up women and when he uncovers a conspiracy by spotting the coded patterns in vast wall of numbers. Making genius public so an audience can see the character¹s brilliance in real terms is very difficult in drama. So this is no small accomplishment.

But A Beautiful Mind is deeply flawed in its structure. Once we learn that Nash has the mental disease of schizophrenia, the drama though not the conflict - essentially comes to a halt. Nash has no control over the visions he sees, so showing scene after scene of Nash struggling with those visions is false dramatics and thus redundant and boring.

The structural line of this story isn't Nash's struggle with schizophrenia, but rather the love story between Nash and his wife. Nash overcomes his problem primarily because of the love between him and his wife.

But that line is not set up properly. To show that his wife would stay by him through the hell of his disease, you have to show them falling in love deeply, and for deep reasons.

Instead we get a few short scenes of a socially incompetent man telling a woman he wants to skip the romance and go right to trading fluids. Boom, they're off getting married. That sort of chatter may qualify Nash as different, but it is not the groundwork for a great love story.

Because the audience has not invested real emotional time in the love of these two characters, the wife's loyalty and sacrifice for her husband make no sense.