Jennifer Connelly as Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind
Best Supporting Actress at the 74th Annual Oscars (2001)
“God must be a painter. Why else would we have so many colors?”
John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a genius economist who suffers from schizophrenia, which causes paranoid hallucinations, making life tough for him and his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly).
Alicia Nash is an empty character. She’s beautiful and likeable but she falls into John Nash’s life out of nowhere, ends up married to him, and then spends a huge portion of the rest of her life caring for him and their family. Beyond supporting John, I’m not sure what she’s all about. What does she want to do in life? What draws her to John, besides that one time he cutely pointed out some constellations? I’m just saying, if I have full-blown hallucinations of fictional people, I’m gonna be extra suspicious of the gorgeous woman who seems to exist only to love me.
Alicia is also a character that we’ve seen so much before in this column: the woman who stands by her man. I will say, in contrast to so many of the husbands that we’ve seen before, John isn’t awful. He’s awkward, and egotistical, but mostly, he’s tough to be married to because he’s dealing with such an intense mental illness. I didn’t find myself rooting for Alicia to get out, although I certainly wouldn’t blame her if she did, but it’s more of a hard situation for both Alicia and John than someone putting up with mistreatment.
I’ll speak plainly: I think Jennifer Connelly was absolutely the wrong casting for this role. Like I said above, Alicia is a hollow character, and would have been well-served being played by an actress with a big personality, who could fill in some quirks. But Connelly is a non-specific actor. There’s nothing idiosyncratic to discuss about this performance: it feels like Connelly was interchangeable, like anyone else could have played this role to the same result. She does do a great job of conveying Alicia’s love for John, and in making the audience believe in them as a couple. I also hate to lean too heavy on appearance, but oh my god, she’s SO striking. I just wish that someone else had been given this role.
I was so poised for A Beautiful Mind to be another dreary biopic, but it’s actually quite enjoyable! Partly, that’s because it’s a family drama that often plays like a thriller, almost bending genre. Putting us in John Nash’s head allows us to see mental illness from the inside, and while it’s sensationalized, it also allows us to better understand how destabilizing it would be. Russell Crowe is excellent, hamming it up in all the right ways. And it’s also a genuinely moving story of a man and his family learning to live with his illness. Of course it’s corny (like, because John Nash is a genius, we constantly see numbers flying around), and it’s not that deep, but it’s a great Saturday afternoon watch.
Was the Oscar deserved?
Jennifer Connelly is great … but not for this movie, so no.