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The daughter of a brilliant but mentally disturbed mathematician (recently deceased) tries to come to grips with her possible inheritance: his insanity. Complicating matters are one of her father's ex-students who wants to search through his papers and her estranged sister who shows up to help settle his affairs. Written by
Greetings again from the darkness. Rarely do we get to see a film based on a Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning story (by David Auburn). It does tend to jump the expectations a bit! There are facets of this story that we have seen on screen before in such fine films as "A Beautiful Mind", "Shine" and "Good Will Hunting". The topics of brilliance and insanity often overlap, in fact, the line is often so blurry as to prevent accurate diagnosis. Gwyneth Paltrow is spectacular in her gut-wrenching, emotional roller coaster of a role. I feel very cheated having read recently that she is contemplating giving up acting to enjoy her life and family. This would be a shame as she is only scratching the surface of her talents and artistry. Teaming again with director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love"), Paltrow delivers an Oscar worthy performance that is emotionally deep and profound. Thank goodness she was selected over the bitter Mary Louise Parker.
The assembled supporting cast is impressive in name; however, Sir Anthony Hopkins is solid, but not great in the relatively small, but crucial role as Paltrow's once genius, then insane, now dead father. His influence on her life is beyond question and how she deals is the heart of the story. Jake Gyllenhaal, although a fine actor, is totally miscast as Hopkins' former student who tries to secure the legacy. Hope Davis is perfect as the irritating sister of Paltrow who has "been working 14 hour days" for 5 years while Paltrow cared for dear old nutty dad.
What prevents the film from being great is that it never decides what it is about. It is a film about a math genius (or two) but it shows almost no math. Is it a film about genius? Is it about insanity? Is it about caring for an elderly parent? Is it a film of self-discovery? All of these are touched on, but none are hit head-on. It is a fine film, definitely worth seeing, but it will probably leave you feeling a bit empty.
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