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This film had Miramax Films written all over it. Bob and Harvey may be gone, but their legacy still lingers in these final fews films they heralded. In a normal year, a film like "Proof" would be an obvious awards contender, but Miramax gave this film the shaft in a big way. The release date way delayed and delayed and it was finally dumped into a few theatres and it has been slowly making its way across the country. The shame is that this was probably the best film I have seen all year long, overtaking last week's newcomer "Serenity". I say maybe because I want to think about it more, maybe see it a second time, and then make a more informed decision. If it does not make #1, it will most certainly make #2 or #3. "Proof" was flawless film-making, from John Madden, the director who brought us the Academy Award winning "Shakespeare In Love", only to follow that with the dreadful "Captain Correlli's Mandolin". He obviously has talent, and this film makes up for his Nicolas Cage fiasco. I say this has Miramax written all over it because of the style of film "Proof" is. It has substance. It has weight. It is the kind of film Miramax was churning out every month or so during the 1990's. Now, with the Miramax era having drawn to an end, it was nice to see it flicker out in such nice fashion. "Proof" was an amazing spectacle of motion picture minimality.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play from David Auburn, "Proof" tells the story of Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow), a woman in her late twenties who has not had the best couple of years. Her father Robert (Anthony Hopkins) was probably the most beloved mathematician in the world, but then began deteriorating mentally, forcing her to take care of him and cater to his madness. The film finds Catherine dealing with the recent death of her father. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Harold, one of her father's students who is searching her father's office for any proofs that he might have been composing while he was suffering from his dementia. As Harold puts it, "A mind like his doesn't just stop working." Enter Claire (Hope Davis), Catherine's sister from New York who is overly nice and thinks Catherine might possess some of the slightly crazy tendencies that her father so notably maintained. "Proof" deals with the new relationship formed between Catherine and Harold, and how that relationship is tested when a new, miraculous proof is discovered, and Catherine claims to have written it. The film is all emotion...all drama...and all entirely awe inspiring cinema.
Sitting through a motion picture like "Proof" is a joy. This screenplay is rich with emotion, humor, and insight that few films possess these days. The play itself is absolutely perfect material for a film, and John Madden was able to truly translate those words to the big screen with little to no difficulty. We grow to care about all of these characters and we want to see them all find happiness. We also get into the great mystery of the film...did Richard have periods of sanity and genius? Did Catherine really write the proof that could change mathematics? "Proof" is just as much a mystery as it is a drama and human study. The best scene in the film comes when Catherine is in her father's office, desperately trying to convince her sister and Harold that she wrote the proof -- she is crying and screaming and irrational and totally believable -- she just assumed the people she loved might believe her. There is yet another scene between Richard and Catherine in the backyard in the snow, when Richard tells his daughter that his mind has started working again, and amazingly so.
Without any doubt whatsoever, this is Gwyneth Paltrow's best performance to date. I will be shocked and saddened if she does not receive Academy Award recognition, and I don't care how much money this film ends up making. No other actress could have brought this kind of performance to Catherine. As her dwindling father, Sir Anthony Hopkins is in fine form, and really adds electricity to all of the scenes he is in. It is easy to see why he is both beloved and somewhat feared. Hope Davis is flawless as Claire, and Jake Gyllenhaal also delivers the performance of his career, playing a character much older than he typically looks or acts. But, he handles it well, and we have zero difficulty imagining him as this professor of mathematics. These actors work so well together in the film -- Paltrow and Gyllenhaal, Paltrow and Davis, and especially Paltrow and Hopkins. Notice how Gwyneth's name comes up so frequently. That is because the film depends on her performance...it depends on her motion and her believability as a woman who may or may not be just as crazy as her father. Also, notice how we never learn what condition afflicts Hopkins. It could be dementia or it could be Alzheimers -- we are never told. The playwright, and John Madden, leave that up to the viewer. By the end, does it really matter?
If, by some miracle, Academy voters happen to chance upon this website, here is the rundown for "Proof" -- Gwyneth Paltrow for Best Actress, Anthony Hopkins for Best Supporting Actor, John Madden for Best Director, and David Auburn for Best Adapted Screenplay. What are the chances of that happening? Slime to none. As much as most would discount this possibility, I think Paltrow has a chance at a nod, especially since most voters have been waiting for her to wow us once more for a long while. How odd that she would do it once more with Mr. John Madden. "Proof" was sweet and sad and funny and insightful and wholly engrossing. It is the best drama I have seen all year and one of the best I have seen in my entire time as a moviegoer. I think a wide release would be wonderful for this film, and for all of you yet to see it.
- added 08/09/2007, 10:54 PM
This movie could have been so much better. I
enjoyed it at first, but the twist ruined it for
me, and I found it made the movie really boring.
- added 03/15/2008, 05:31 PM
Boring..! 10/10? no way... won some Oscar or
as the fecal kid said... 6/10.
- added 12/30/2008, 02:15 PM
This film is but a pale shadow of it's Broadway
predecessor... in SOOO many ways.
because you plug a few big named celebrities in
the title roles of a great story does not
necessarily a great film make...
Paltrow's usual "methadone-acting"
only serves to deaden any real sympathies we might
have with her character... and Hopkin's
predictable scene chomping technique in no way
accurately represents a great man in the throes of
dementia. A classic example of casting over
Gyllenhaal is admirable in
his academic zeal and seems to embrace his role
well... but I simply couldn't maintain my interest
in the two main characters long enough to really
illicit any real empathetic connection to
All in all... an epic
If the main protagonist seems
asleep at the wheel, it's really hard to get
excited at her exploits.
Why the Hell
didn't they simply cast Mary-Louise Parker in the
main role so that she could reprise her Tony
God... even her
replacement Jennifer Jason Leigh would have been a
There isn't an
Oscar worthy moment in this film... 6.5/10