Can’t someone start a fund to stop Ron Howard from turning great film ideas into piles of mush? As John Nash, a Nobel Prize worthy, schizophrenic Princeton mathematician, Russell Crowe shines, particularly in the early scenes where his youthful makeup is startlingly effective. But Akiva Goldsman’s script turns distressingly obvious, following the hackneyed tropes of a classic addiction pic* after teasing us with an imaginative, if hard to swallow, middle act that plays like an M. Night Shyamalan reject. Howard’s cast may have looked fine on paper, but Jennifer Connelly makes zero impact as the dutiful wife while the crew of college buds might as well be auditioning for a Lite beer commercial. Christopher Plummer has fun taking a mighty sock to the jaw, but nothing can make up for the sappy ending (a standing ‘O’ at the Nobel Prize ceremony?) or for James Horner’s appalling music score, heavy on the uplifting harp glissandi.
*It's not that those 'addiction tropes' don't work, they always work. It's that they're being asked to support a deeper and far more ambitious dramatic goal then they can sustain. It's one of the main reasons the big teary pay-off feels so distressingly cheap.