Proof

 
Directed by: John Madden
Written by:David Auburn, Rebecca Miller
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis
Released: March 16, 2006
Grade: A

Proof stars Gwyneth Paltrow and has been made by John Madden, the director of Shakespeare In Love.  That sentence alone will be a turn off for many and I admit to having my doubts.  Yet, here I am trying to justify why it deserves an A grading and is one of the best films so far this year.

Robert (Hopkins) was a brilliant mathematician who wrote many famous proofs and taught for many years at a prominent Chicago university.  In his later years however, he was anything but brilliant.  He developed a mental disorder and was unable to care for himself, let alone teach others.

Robert’s death will serve as a turning point for his daughter, Catherine (Paltrow).  Catherine had hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps by studying mathematics but was forced to drop out of college to care for him.  Now that he has passed away, Catherine does not know how to return to the life she left behind.  She has been living in isolation with Robert for so long, that she has no job and no friends.  Worst of all, Catherine has a sense that something is amiss with her own mind.  Is her father’s mental condition hereditary?  Her increasing worries see her slip into a world of depression.

Two people with questionable intentions will then enter Catherine’s life.  The first is her sister, Claire (Davis), with whom she has never gotten along well with.  Claire now lives in New York and is trying to encourage Catherine to move there so she can sell Robert’s house and claim half of the inheritance.  The second is a college student named Hal (Gyllenhaal) who was a long-time fan of Robert.  Hal wants to sift through Robert’s final journals to see if he left behind any decipherable proof he can claim discovery for.

That’s as far as I’ll go in describing a film which tells a great story.  I would expect no less given that it’s based on a play written by David Auburn which won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play in 2001.  I see the attraction for director John Madden who brings Auburn’s story to the bigger screen with precision.  These characters are extremely complex and we understand a little bit more with each passing minute. 

For Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s her best role since Shakespeare In Love and this should come as no surprise given she starred in the play when it featured on London’s West End.  Jake Gyllenhaal gives a performance equal to that seen in Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead and it caps off what has been an incredible year.  The most notable cast member is my humble opinion was Hope Davis as Catherine’s sister.  Seemingly destined to always be a supporting actress, Davis is very much underappreciated.

There are people who can guess my gradings with close precision.  They know my likes and dislikes all too well.  I have no problem with this but once in a while, a film does come along which unexpectedly surprises.  It’s why I like to see every movie.  You may have a strong hunch but it’s always risky to judge a book by its cover.  This film is “proof” of that.