Director: John Madden
Reuniting with the man who directed her in her Academy Award winning role in Shakespeare in Love, Gwyneth Paltrow turns in another emotionally gripping portrayal for John Madden with her work in Proof, an adaptation of David Auburn’s Pulitzer Prize winning play. While it loses some of the impact in its cinematic and slightly icy incarnation, we're nonetheless fascinated by Auburn’s story of Catherine, a woman who has sacrificed her education, most of her 20’s, and social life living as a near hermit while looking after her mentally ill but exceptionally brilliant mathematician father, Robert (Anthony Hopkins). After Robert’s death, one of his former graduate students turned professor (a slightly young Jake Gyllenaal), arrives to go through Robert’s large collection of incoherent notebook ramblings only to make a surprising discovery that involves Catherine. However, we quickly learn that Catherine may not only have inherited her father’s genius but possibly some of his mental instability as well as the film continues. Things get complicated when her controlling older sister (Hope Davis) arrives with plans to sell Robert’s home to the university and take Catherine back to New York with her. The performances between the three leads are wonderful and the interplay is a sight to behold as it’s always electrifying to witness the ways that great actors are able to challenge one another to bring their games to higher levels. In addition to the main trio, Anthony Hopkins shows a wild intensity he’s seldom been able to express in his oeuvre within his few memorable scenes in Proof. While Auburn’s screenplay, intriguingly co-written by Rebecca Miller (daughter of the legendary playwright Arthur Miller who may have been able to empathize with the perils of being overshadowed by a father’s genius on a daughter in the same field), is startlingly well done, the film lacks a bit from a genuine cinematic feel, never fully shaking its original staginess although this main detraction is easily forgiven by the staggering talent involved.
Note: Before its initial release, Proof was prematurely over-praised as a potential Oscar contender by some critics eager to jump on the bandwagon due to the perceived importance of the film instead of waiting to simply discover the piece as a flawed but above average work in its own right. In the end, the best way to avoid all the hype is-- as always-- to view it and decide on your own, instead of being overwhelmed by the influx of similar-sounding reviews that were written during its debut.