Proof (2005): Dir: John Madden / Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis, Leigh Zimmerman: Intense yet provocative film about state of being. Anthony Hopkins plays a mathematical genius who gradually slips into insanity while under the care of his daughter, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. After his death she questions her own state of mind as a student researches her father's journals in order to understand their meaning. Engaging premise that become a series of arguments. Director John Madden worked with Paltrow in the engaging yet overrated Shakespeare in Love. This time he switches gears and receives a much more defined performance from Paltrow who struggles to maintain a sense of identity. Hopkins is commanding in flashbacks showcasing his madness. Jake Gyllenhaal tries to unscramble Hopkins's journals but he also falls within the film's one central weakness and that is its hinted innuendo between he and Paltrow. Hope Davis plays Paltrow's protective sister who begins to question her sanity and the chance that she may follow in her father's footsteps. Outside the leads there is minor characters that occupy very little screen time until it gets to the plot points. Very well made drama with strong casting and a reason for being. It regards how heredity can shape our lifestyle less we break the cycle. Score: 6 ½ / 10
In the first totally boring 40 minutes of this movie, we learn that Robert was a mad mathematician in the math department at the University of Chicago, but he just died a few days ago and is to be buried imminently. His appearance is brought to us courtesy of flashbacks that run throughout the movie, which inform us that his daughter Catherine, a budding mathematician, dropped out of school to care for him. The movie progresses soon to the funeral, where one eulogist says, "This is the man who at the age of 22 invented the mathematical techniques for studying rational behavior." How impressive. The reality is that a great many mathematicians developed a wide range of techniques that social scientists use to study rational behavior. The writers plainly have no idea who developed any of those techniques or even what they are. Instead, they probably heard of John Nash who got the Nobel prize in Economics for his work on game theory. Nash also was nuts. That seems to be the model for Robert.The funeral scene is ridiculous beyond belief, and the post-funeral scene outside the church is nearly as bad. Then there's the wake. Complete idiocy. The wake scene is followed by the obligatory bed scene with Catherine and Hal (Robert's PhD student), which takes place during the wake. Catherine has seen Hal once or twice in the past. She shows him her room, which is cluttered with math books that she has read in her spare time, when she wasn't caring for her father. Catherine tells Hal he's not boring. Hal is so overwhelmed by such appreciation for a dull mathematician that he is overcome by desire to lay Catherine, which he does. Catherine, who was so upset during the funeral that she interrupted it with a rambling diatribe, now she lets this guy, whom she barely knows, screw her just a few hours after the funeral while a bunch of wild party-goers are downstairs celebrating/mourning her father's passing. After consummation, with Hal still on top of her and apparently still inside her, she breaks down in tears. Only in Hollywood could someone come up with such garbage.Then there is the dialog the next morning. This isn't worth going into in detail any more. Let me just say the dialog is utterly childish. So here we are over 40 or 50 minutes into the movie, and nothing interesting or credible has happened.At this point, Hal is looking over some of Robert's copious notes that Catherine has shown him. He is thunderstruck at what he sees, declaring, "It's a proof. Er, I think it's a proof. If it's what I think it is, it's a major breakthrough. A proof of something mathematicians have been working on for centuries...Blah, blah." No clue what that something might be, undoubtedly because the script writers wouldn't know addition from subtraction, much less what to say about an important problem in number theory. Then lo and behold, Catherine tells us that she, not her father, did the proof and wrote the notes that her new-found lover Hal is talking about. She who has not been to grad school yet. But don't forget, she reads math on the side. She also worked with her father. So at 27, with no formal training, she solves the great prime number puzzle of all time. (All this is coming out in the hangover everyone is in the morning after the big party at the wake and the gripping bed scene.) Are you getting the idea just how stupid this movie is? By the way, it has to add ridiculous political correctness to an already ridiculous plot. In the entire history of mathematics, not one major theory, not a single one, ever has been proved by a woman. Yet here we have an untrained dilettante figuring out a result that has puzzled great mathematicians for centuries. Why didn't they make her a bisexual trans-gender just to round things out? Unfortunately, Catherine's handwriting is nearly identical to her father's, so lover boy Hal and Catherine's witch-sister Claire doubt that Catherine did the work. Such drama! Incredibly gripping! Catherine cannot understand why lover boy Hal, he of the one-night stand just the night before, cannot believe that she did it. After all, the notes are in her father's handwriting. Catherine replies that her writing just happens to look like her father's. Later, after reading over the notes, lover boy Hal informs us that he has changed his mind. He adds that the handwriting problem is illusory because sometimes children have similar handwriting as their parents, especially if they spend a lot of time together. Every mathematician knows that, right? The subsequent banalities and foolishness spew forth in seemingly unlimited supply.One last thing does require comment. This movie indulges itself in the usual and grossly wrong view that all great mathematicians and scientists are crazy. In this movie, both Catherine and her father are disturbed, to say the least. The reason everyone (especially those who don't know anything about mathematics) thought A Beautiful Mind was so good is that the main guy does a great mental thing even though he is nuts. Believe it or not, that sort of thing is the exception, the very rare exception, not the rule. Yet in this movie, not one but two main characters are nuts and also happen to be brilliant. That's the only way that the shallow ignoramuses who write this drivel (THAT's who wrote it) can understand people with the intelligence, insight, knowledge, and imagination to do something original: they must be crazy because they aren't like Hollywood script writers.This movie is a tedious, boring, un-insightful, routine, and warped exercise in Hollywood's perverted, indeed depraved, view of the world. It is, in a word, terrible. If you have any brains at all, you run the risk of losing them if you watch this silly movie.
I almost wish they could re-title "Proof" to "Gwyneth Paltrow's Acting Abilities," because that's what Proof has going for it: Gwyneth Paltrow's tour de force portrayal of a woman caught between the lines of brilliance and insanity. It's the best performance I've ever seen dealing with grief. She has a few times in the first Act she crosses the line and becomes melodramatic, but Act Two and Three prove Paltrow's work to be a hurricane of a performance. I've seen Proof twice, I must say the overall quality of the film dropped the second time around. At times Proof is misdirected and strays into melodrama, therefore loses connection with the viewer. But the director has a handle on many of the painfully emotional scenes. It does display some terrific edited sequences, the performances from Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal are air-tight, and the script is tailored in compelling drama and mystery. Paltrow's emotionally draining performance is reason enough to see it. Rating: 7/10Grade: B+
A world famous mathematician (Hopkins) at U of Chicago had alternating periods of lucidity and mental illness during his last years. His younger daughter, Kate (Paltrow), inherits his gift for math but drops out of her university studies during her father's last 5 years to care for him. After his death, a startling proof solving a longstanding mathematical dilemma is discovered in their home.Did he write it or did Kate? Hal (Gyllenhaal), the professor's assistant and a junior faculty member, is also strongly attracted to Kate--but he isn't sure who wrote it. Claire (Davis), the other, older sister, arrives from NYC for the funeral, and to settle her father's estate. She decides that Kate needs treatment plus her--Claire's--supervision in NYC. Flashbacks (in Kate's mind) portray scenes with her father before his death. She has fears Hal will try to pass off the proof as his own. We're puzzled until the end--who wrote this amazing proof? Is Kate also seriously mentally ill? Definitely a mystery.All four principals did superb acting jobs, especially, IMO, Hope Davis as the unlikeable sister & Paltrow; Paltrow's performance was nominated for a Golden Globe.This is a quirky film that definitely some will not like. I was very leery of it because it deals with mental illness and my experience with Hollywood's treatment of this (IMO) is so often unrealistic (e.g., "Black Swan," "American Beauty," etc.). I was very pleasantly surprised at how realistic Paltrow's performance of a particular type of symptoms was (but it's that realism that may be off-putting to many).