1) Russell Crowe’s accent. Is he from West Virginia, Australia, or is he a transnational dropout from the Meryl Streep Academy of Dramatic Arts?
2) The scene introducing Jennifer Connelly’s female “lead” is a textbook case of the disembodied male gaze in action. In a medium close-up of Connelly’s derrière that could not realistically be from the POV of professor John Nash as he stands at the front of the classroom, Connelly, near the back of the room, leans out a window and uses her feminine charms to get noisy workmen outside to cease and desist. The ubiquitous male gaze, therefore, not only undermines women’s ability to act as subjects and express their subjective experience, it also undermines the audience’s ability to notice that this woman’s experiences are largely missing from the narrative.
3) Costuming Connelly in a few retro dresses just doesn’t cut it in terms of evoking the look of the post–World War II period. I suppose it’s nice for the actress and her fans that she got to look so gorgeous on the big screen, but it’s hardly likely that a female college student who managed, against all odds, to get into a top-level math course at MIT in the early 1950s would look like a 21st-century Hollywood actress with a personal trainer, an incredible hair stylist and a regimen of spa facials.
4) Once Alicia (Connelly) marries, we never again hear a peep about her purported interest in mathematics.
5) The film’s central narrative twist allows the audience, initially, to hallucinate along with Nash. To accomplish this cinematic trick, Ron Howard relies upon and promotes a view of the Soviet Union as an Evil Empire and communism as an imminent threat. Yet there is no attention in this film to the actual context of anti-communist paranoia in which Nash’s Cold War hallucinations take shape — no mention of loyalty oaths, the Hollywood 10, HUAC, the Rosenberg executions, nor the real fears of impending atomic war felt by people in the U.S. and elsewhere during the Korean War.
6) Howard’s pastiche of McCarthy- and Reagan-era views on the evils of communism is not unrelated to the movie’s assumption that no one had criticized Adam Smith until, according to this film, Nash did in the late 1940s. Apparently Howard has never heard of Karl Marx, or any of the other political economists and theorists who critiqued capitalism during the nearly 100 years separating Marx’s life from Nash’s.
7) Howard turns Nash’s Nobel award ceremony into a parody of gushy Oscar-night acceptance speeches, presumably a not-too-subliminal attempt to get Academy members primed to vote for his movie.
8) There is a moment in A Beautiful Mind reminiscent of the right-wing revisionism of Forrest Gump: In a montage sequence depicting the passage of time as Nash haunts the Princeton campus over several decades, only once does Howard choose to show Nash getting taunted — by college hippies in the late ’60s!
9) Anyway, what’s the point of seeing a trashy melodrama if neither Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck nor Joan Crawford is in it?
10) Then again . . . the goofy special effects Howard inserted every time Nash had a nutso moment were pretty amusing.
The writer is an assistant professor of U.S. social, cultural and women’s history at Cal State University Fresno.
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