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Proof Starring Gwyneth Paltrow

By Rebecca Anne Smith

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When I heard that David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize winning play was coming to movie theaters, I wondered how the screenwriters would adapt the character-driven drama.  The intimacy of the theater rarely translates well to the big screen.  John Madden's "Proof" proves this theory, but regrettably little else.

"Proof" takes place in modern day Chicago, amidst the puzzling world of academia.  Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow) is the daughter of a mathematical genius (Anthony Hopkins) who is famous for creating an incredible math proof.  When he becomes ill and looses his mind, Catherine is the dutiful daughter who stays home to care for him.  What we see of Catherine is not very likeable.  She is a stiff, angry human being, but she does have a brilliant mind. 

Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins

Like her father Catherine a knack for mathematics.  Her biggest fear is that her father's madness is hereditary.  In an early scene we watch her conversing at home with her dad on the night of her birthday.  At that moment we find out that her father is already dead, and she is having a hallucination.  This is, oddly, the story's emotional peak.  From there she mourns the death of her father for the remaining hour and a half.  What follows is a series of static scenes (close-up after close-up of Gwyneth Paltrow) that will likely have you nodding off. 

Hope Davis and Gwyneth Paltrow

Two uninvited guests attempt to come to Catherine's rescue first her dad's former math student, Hal, (Jake Gyllenhaal) which leads to an awkward one-night fling, and then her frigid old sister, Claire (Hope Davis) who wants to move her 'crazy' sibling to New York.     

The film's biggest flaw is the casting.  Gwyneth Paltrow is receiving a great deal of criticism for her role, and rightly so.  Her acting in this film lacks depth and range.  She plays Catherine in a bland state of depression, scene after tedious scene.  I found myself uninterested in the pretty-faced, melancholy leading lady.  Instead of Paltrow they should have cast Mary Louise Parker, who played Catherine in the Broadway play.  A powerful actress like Parker brings depth and wisdom to the role.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Gwyneth Paltrow

In the end, some plays are better left in their true form. Miramax has kept "Proof" on the shelf for nearly two years, and now I understand why.  It is a small film with an even smaller audience.


The biggest risk in life is not taking one.

Based on the Broadway stage play by David Auburn, this is the story of Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow), an enigmatic young woman who faces the challenges of a genius father, her manipulative sister, an unexpected suitor and a mysterious mathematical proof only to realise that love is the most complex equation of all.


Gwyneth Paltrow .... Catherine
Anthony Hopkins .... Robert
Hope Davis .... Claire
Jake Gyllenhaal .... Hal
Gary Houston .... Professor Jay Barrow
Anne Wittman .... Joann
Daniel Hatkoff .... Student
Colin Stinton .... Physicist at party
Leigh Zimmerman
David Auburn .... Playwright
David Auburn .... Screenwriter
Rebecca Miller .... Screenwriter
John Madden .... Director

Awards and film festivals:
London Film Festival 2005: Film on the Square
Toronto International Film Festival 2005: Screening
Tokyo International Film Festival 2005: Special Screening
Venice Film Festival 2005: In competition
 
Buena Vista International

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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