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This film is about death, love, and mental incapacity. There are bound
to be endless clichés, comparisons, and parallels drawn with Ron
Howard's "A Beautiful Mind", so I won't go there.
In the end, this film is all about Gwyneth Paltrow.
She is on screen at least 80% of this film. Her character dances between mourning, anger, remorse, confusion, fear, vulnerability, sadness, and just a little bit of love. There are very dramatic changes in emotion from moment to moment, and Paltrow pulls it off brilliantly.
Sir Anthony Hopkins role, while relatively small, is crucial to the film. His performance was good, but not great. But it didn't really matter, as Proof is all about Paltrow. Hope Davis and Jake Gyllenhaal also gave solid performances, but their as with Hopkin's role were really nothing more than support Paltrow.
The biggest disappointment for me was the almost total lack of any 'real' mathematics. For a film that revolves around brilliant mathematical proofs, there's an almost painful scarcity of and real math in the film. There are shots of seemingly random equations scrawled across paper or a blackboard, and the odd conversation making reference to some known mathematical law or theorem, but I would have liked more.
IF you want a happy film, go see something else. If you want a mindless film, go see something else. If you want a typical love story, go see something else. If you want an intelligent well written and presented story of substance involving a a character experiencing a roller-coaster of emotions, Proof may be for you.
I love a movie in which every moment of it feels authentic, and "Proof"
is that kind of movie. Critics have had a fairly mediocre response to
the film, so I was somewhat surprised that I liked it so much. But it's
easily one of the best movies I've seen this year.
I didn't see the David Auburn play on which the movie is based, and maybe many of the film's detractors have: screen adaptations of favorite plays often seem to dilute them to the detriment of the story. But if this movie is worse than its stage counterpart, it must have made one damn fine play.
The acting in this film is its major attribute, and director John Madden is wise enough to realize the talent of his ensemble and stand out of their way. He plays a bit with chronology and lets the pieces of his story click into place much like a math puzzle; I don't know whether or not this is original to the film or borrowed from the play, but either way it works well. But mostly, he lets the actors strut their stuff, and the four principals make the most of meaty roles.
Most of the acclaim has been falling, and rightly so, to Gwyneth Paltrow, who gives a full-bodied, textured and powerful performance as Catherine, who has inherited her genius at math from her father and is deathly afraid that she may have inherited his madness as well. I don't know that Paltrow has yet had a role as substantial as this one, and she flexes her acting chops in a way I have not seen her do outside of her underrated performance in "Sylvia." Hope Davis matches her scene for scene as the astringent older sister; it's refreshing to see Davis break away from the mousy, mealy persona she so frequently adopts and play this crisp, overwhelming character. The male actors have less to do overall, but the roles are perfectly cast. Jake Gyllenhaal is ripe for stardom, and this may be the year that brings it. Anthony Hopkins has been dismissed as hammy here, but I think he does an effective job of portraying mental illness, and creates heartbreaking moments that could have been ruined had they been played differently.
"Proof" feels entirely honest about the dynamics of dysfunctional families; you just know David Auburn is writing from personal experience. Like Robert Redford's "Ordinary People," if you have any exposure to similar family dynamics, you know the team that put the film together got everything just right. "Proof" also creates a parallel between mathematics and the messiness of life that makes one re-evaluate the rigidity of what always appears to be an exact science. As one must accept a level of ambiguity in life, one must also be willing to make leaps of faith in mathematics, because nothing can be 100% proved.
I highly recommend this film. It's satisfying on both an intellectual and emotional level. And any movie that can make math exciting to me gets an automatic thumbs up.
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.
GWYNETH, GWYNETH, GWYNETH! Not having been overly impressed with any of
her previous performances, in Proof, Gwyneth Paltrow brings a highly
emotional, nuanced, and so finely-tuned performance, I must say this
movie this movie a stand-out.
She inhabits her character so fully, I was pulled in and so completely entranced the entire time. In fact, certain words or phrases are reused and have an uncanny allusion to when they were previously said. The effect as that you experience and follow the moments, and the thoughts of the characters, even though they are so deeply imbedded within. I credit Gwyneth and the director with making this work so well. I've never experienced such an organic link between phrases separated in time in a movie before. Wow!
This is a movie about how a daughter, her sister, and a grad student deal with the passing of a great mathematician. While there may be similarities with 'A Beautiful Mind' and even 'Good Will Hunting', knowing there are any such links didn't help me with this movie and I think actually does a dis-service. This movie stands on its own. Ignore any such comparisons.
Acting-wise, there were strong performances all around with Anthony Hopkins giving a top-notch performance. Jake Gyllenhaal's was strong, but perhaps not to the level of his rather awesome performance in Brokeback Mountain.
Good things aside, the one thing that irked me about this film, was that given the strong link to mathematics, how unbelievable some of the dialogue was regarding the 'math. While Gwyneth's and Hopkins' characters pulled off a sense of mathematical intelligence, Jake's character hardly said anything mathematically competent and even came across as flustered in expressing himself mathematically leaving me feeling cheated. In my view, this is chiefly the fault of the screenplay but to a lesser extent in the actor's portrayal. Ignore this rather small point, and this movie passes with flying colours. Q.E.D.
Gwyneth Paltrow gives a haunting portrayal of a daughter whose devotion to a mentally challenged father draws out her own mental edges. As care-giver for an elderly parent I am well aware of our fragile mental world and Paltrow's performance shines with nothing but truth. Her honesty and the emotional territory she portrayals are "proof" of her integrity as an actress. The film is impressively directed -- the script is paced compellingly and draws the viewer into a life situation that most of us simply refuse to acknowledge and try to avoid. Once the "great mind" of our genius is "gone" -- who are we? Hope Davis as Paltrow's sister does a great job of showing how striving for her "normalacy" is the ultimate lunacy. Great ensemble playing by all. I highly recommend this film.
"Proof", the excellent play by David Auburn, was one of the best things
in the New York stage in recent memory. Part of the attraction was the
intelligent subject matter, math science, and how it connected the four
characters one got to meet. The casting was an ideal one, Mary Louise
Parker, Larry Briggman, Johanna Day and Ben Shenkman, playing
Cahterine, Robert, Claire and Hal, respectively.
Mr. Auburn and Rebecca Miller, a movie director, herself, took the task of adapting "Proof" for the screen. The result, directed by John Madden, opens the play in cinematic terms, no small undertaking in presenting the movie to a wider audience who might not be interested in science, and much less in the advanced math that plays an important role in the proceedings.
If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading here.
Catherine, the 27 year old, at the center of the film, is a woman who has stayed behind to take care of her aging father, a man much esteemed in academic circles, who is suffering from, perhaps, a neurological illness that is killing him slowly. Catherine has, in a way, sacrificed her life in order to see that Robert spends his last days at home instead of at an institution.
The death of the father brings Claire home. This woman, who lives in New York, wants to get rid of everything connected with her father. She even has made plans for Catherine to move from Chicago to be near each other in New York, where things are much better. To complicate things, Harold, the nerdy math student, finds a hidden notebook that might contain a discovery that will revolutionize math. The only problem is the proof might not have been the dead man's own creation.
"Proof" works as a film because of Mr. Madden's direction. We are kept involved in what is going on because we have been won by Catherine, the wounded woman trying to live her life without having to tend to a sick man. Catherine love for math, in a way, makes her realize her place is in the same institution where her father made mathematical discoveries as she will be following his steps.
Gwyneth Paltrow makes an excellent Catherine, a role she had played on the London stage. Ms. Paltrow is a welcome presence in the movie because of the intelligence she projects when working with a good director like John Madden. In fact, it has been a while since we saw this actress in a film.
Hope Davis, another excellent actress, plays Claire, the materialistic sister who has arrived and who wants to transform the frumpy Catherine and mold her to her own taste. Ms. Davis has accustomed us to expect a valuable contribution to any film in which she plays. As Claire, she clearly understand who this character she is portraying really is.
Anthony Hopkins has only a few good moments on the screen. Jake Gyllenhaal's character Harold is not as effective as Ben Shenkman's was on the stage. In fact, Mr. Gyllenhaal, with his dark good looks, seems to be someone who would not be interested in math at all.
"Proof" is an immensely rewarding film thanks to what John Madden's vision.
Seeing this movie makes one realize how truly dumb and unchallenging
most Hollywood movies, aimed at young teenage boys, are. The script was
brilliant, and all four actors do a fine job of bringing the story to
life. I too saw Mary Louise Parker in the stage version, and though I
slightly preferred her to Gwynneth, the latter nonetheless was fine as
the gifted and disturbed Catherine. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal was very
good in his role, but too good-looking and hunky to play a geeky
mathematician. Compared to the play, his relationship with Catherine
developed a little too quickly in the movie, considering what a loner
Catherine had been up to this time. Hope Davis was great as the more
"normal," but controlling sister Claire, her second best performance
ever, after the under-appreciated one she gave in "American Splendor"
(be sure to rent THAT movie if you haven't seen it), and she manages to
be more sympathetic than the actress who played her in the stage
version. Hopkins as the brilliant, mentally ill mathematician-father
was fine, though not particularly special in the role.
I only have two quibbles. One, there was not enough mathematics in the movie OR the play. Everyone has studied advanced math, so why not challenge the audience a little more and let us in on what the proof is actually about. It is kind of like watching a movie about a musician and not letting the audience hear any of the music! Two, it is not believable that in a crucial scene towards the end of the movie, that neither Catherine and especially the more materialistic Claire would not care what ultimately happens to the proof, especially when being told of its possible value.
Aside from these flaws, if you are looking for intelligent fare and a break from mindless action films and the mostly unfunny comedies of the past summer, you owe it to yourself to see this film. The theater I saw it in was almost empty, so I fear it is not doing too well. Remember that every ticket you buy is a vote for more of that kind of film being made. Let's hear it for more stimulating and mature films like this one!
by the dialogue, you can tell this story began as a very good play. the issue with making a movie from a very good play is that you have to add something impossible to do on stage. i think paltrow does an excellent job. i'm not a big gwyn fan, but the way she portrayed her deep sadness throughout the movie, in closeups you wouldn't see from the balcony section of a theater - the fragility of her grasp on reality, the trauma of watching her father deteriorate before her eyes... this is something beyond "a beautiful mind," which centered more on the hallucinations and surreality of a victim of mental disease. "proof," instead, focuses on the father-daughter relationship and how, even after caring for his deteriorated mind for years, a daughter doesn't think twice about seeking her father's approval - as if he could be coherent for the moment she needed him to be. i thought that was the most poignant part of the movie. there's not a lot to the story of the movie, but the depth in the performances - paltrow, hopkins and hope davis - is worth the ticket. its nice to actually see a very good movie once in a while.
"Proof" hones in on the emotional relationships in the play. With
Rebecca Miller jointly credited with David Auburn on adapting his play,
this is less coy about who did what to whom when in reality or delusion
than it is about connections between people.
The flashbacks cut effectively back and forth and smooth out where each character is coming from.
"Catherine," the daughter of a brilliant mathematician who is somewhat modeled on John Nash's struggles with madness which were portrayed in "A Beautiful Mind," is still the focal point of attention. But with the other characters fleshed out more Gwyneth Paltrow has more to naturalistically react to than the stage actresses (I saw it on Broadway with a mercurial Anne Heche). Paltrow brings unexpected fragility to the role and makes her sarcastic accusations to her sister come out of personal pain and not just spitefulness. You really see that she is emotionally ravaged from putting her life and mind on hold for a father with a very strong personality.
Anthony Hopkins is unusually paternal as the father and you understand her attractions and fear of him, as well as why the sister had to flee how insecure she felt there, as Hope Davis manages to breathe some life into a strident character. We see very clearly the demands of being a caregiver to a legend. Unlike in "Iris" at the end of careers, we do ache at the sacrifices the young caregiver has made and how this claustrophobic existence has led to her own crippling doubts about her work, her life and her sanity.
Jake Gyllenhaal is the hunkiest, most adorable, rock 'n' rollin' math graduate student since Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting" and could help increase math enrollments around the country. But as irresistible as he is, and their relationship is literally more believably fleshed out as young people than in the play, we also can share Paltrow's suspicion of him. But we see more of his activities, as the film opens up the play, so we too clearly know before she that he has regained in our credibility as he seeks his proof. I don't mind that the film adds to the romantic aspects and drawn out coda as I thought the play tempted unfulfillingly in that direction and it is a means to help her regain the multiple meanings of proof -- as evidence, as trust, as confidence.
Director John Madden keeps the camera moving actively during long dialog interchanges, reflecting "Catherine"s agitated state of mind. The house and academic setting well establish the atmosphere, particularly when there's more people around, though some of the outdoor shots seemed like filler.
The score is occasionally intrusive, but the concluding voice-over is even more annoying and unnecessary.
John Madden's drama about a daughter (Paltrow) of a brilliant mathematical mind(Hopkins) who is also losing his sanity in late age. The film does great to transition from present tense into flashbacks, the style of film-making is great, and the personal performances, strong writing and great score and cinematography make this picture an overall success. The strongest point of Madden's film, which I found in some ways a bit similar to ROn Howard's A Beautiful Mind is the fact that the lead questions their own sanity and the way they deal with it is brilliant. Paltrow is not my favorite actress, but she showed her talent here in one of her better performances while Hopkins was also good, my favorite performance came from Jake Gyllenhaal who is doing well to establish himself as a consistent young actor. he impresses here again as a master student studying professor Robert's(Hopkins) work. This is a great drama. IMDb rating: 7.0, my rating: 10/10
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