Adapted from the biography by Sylvia Nasar, Goldsman’s screenplay takes its time and sets the payoffs up wonderfully. The dialogue is bereft of the mindless babble so prevalent in movies that deal with such high-minded concepts as appearance vs. reality, severe emotional maladies and arcane cryptography. Although A Beautiful Mind, on the surface, may sound like nothing more than a puffed-up TV flick, it’s most assuredly more than that. With a flawless performance by Russell Crowe, and delightfully strong presence from Jennifer Connelly, a handful of very enjoyable supporting performances, a deft, smart directorial touch from Ron Howard and a shockingly meaty screenplay from Goldsman, A Beautiful Mind is so much more than an “illness-of-the-week” tale. Fascinating, clever and surprisingly heartfelt, it's easily one of 2001’s best films.
Disc 1 houses the main feature, as well as two separate full-length audio commentaries, one with director Ron Howard and the other with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. Howard’s is easily the more colorful and compelling of the two, but fans of the film should highly enjoy both tracks. On the first disc you’ll also find a series of 18 deleted scenes (running about 26 minutes total) with optional commentary by the director, as well as some extensive production notes and some cast/crew bios.
Sounds good enough already, right? Strap yourself down for Disc 2!
There are about a dozen brief featurettes littered about Disc 2, each one covering an aspect of different aspect of the film, as well as its inspiration:
A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer sit and talk about how well they work together. Given the success that Imagine Entertainment has had, it’s tough to argue. (5 min.)
Development of the Screenplay: If all you know about Akiva Goldsman is that he wrote Batman & Robin, here’s an 8-minute featurette that should enlighten you a bit.
Meeting John Nash: Ron Howard (along with a camera operator) gets an exclusive lecture from John Nash himself. After watching the film, it’s fascinating to see the real Nash in the flesh – which makes this 8-minute piece a fantastic inclusion to the DVD.
John Nash Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize: Presented mostly in Swedish and clocking in under two minutes, this brief clip shows Nash being awarded his prize at Stockholm in 1994.
Casting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly: This one’s essentially a five and a half-minute piece on how Howard and Grazer decided on their two leads. Fans of the two stars will most enjoy this featurette; nothing revolutionary here.
The Process of Age Progression: Makeup artist Greg Cannom is highlighted in this surprisingly informative 7-minute piece on the art of cinematic age progression.
Storyboard Comparisons: Now this is how storyboards should be presented! This feature highlights the storyboards, while the final cut of a few specific scenes run alongside the artwork. You can choose to zoom in and watch the sequence with dialogue and storyboards only, or just enjoy the side-by-side comparison.
Creation of the Special Effects: FX wizard Kevin Mack lets us in on the secrets to some of the most subtle special effects ever created. Rare is the film that has so many “hidden” effects, but Mack explains the process behind creating a flock of well-trained pigeons, and the difficulty in creating a realistic-looking ‘baby in the bathtub’. This 10-minute piece is one of the most fascinating featurettes on the entire DVD, and that’s saying a lot.
Scoring the Film: Composer James Horner and singer Charlotte Church discuss the musical decisions made on A Beautiful Mind, and it’s an entertaining 5-and-a-half minutes.
Inside A Beautiful Mind: This 22-minute feature is one of the more ‘traditional’ DVD extras. Not as shallow as your typical EPK, it focuses briefly on various aspects of production, but there’s not a whole lot of meat here.
Academy Awards: Aside from Brian Grazer accepting the award for Best Picture (which is actual Oscar Night footage), these are clips from the Post-Oscar press interviews. Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Jennifer Connelly briefly smile for the cameras and say ‘thanks’. Hardly the most compelling material, but it’s always nice to see such comprehensive extras included.
Theatrical Trailer: This is a deleted scene that features Jennifer Connelly entirely nude…nah, just kidding. It’s the theatrical trailer.
A Beautiful Mind Soundtrack: A short commercial for Horner’s soundtrack.
Now Showing: A series of “If you enjoyed…” trailers for movies such as K-PAX, The Family Man, Apollo 13, and (shudder) Patch Adams.
Organizations: A few web links for those looking to get more information on schizophrenia