Directed by John Madden, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hope Davis.
From far off, 'Proof' looked like a dead cert for Oscar glory. An award-winning play, with Gwyneth Paltrow reuniting with 'Shakespeare in Love' director John Madden to reprise her West End role. And Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal joining her to work off a script from the play's author, David Auburn... you could just see the gold statuettes piling up. But 'Proof' is something of a puzzle, an all-star drama that has the feel of a Sunday afternoon film.
Paltrow plays Catherine, the daughter/nurse of Robert (Hopkins), a mathematical genius who has recently passed away. Robert made his breakthrough as a young man and spent the rest of his adult life battling mental illness. Catherine has inherited his gift for figures, but fears other things have been passed on too. As does her sister, Claire (Davis), who wants Catherine to move with her to New York once she sells their father's home. But Catherine wants to stay in Chicago and her father's former grad student Hal (Gyllenhaal) wants her to stay too. He also wants access to Robert's papers to see if he made any discoveries in later life. But perhaps he's looking in the wrong direction.
Whether through script or structure, some plays just don't make the transition from stage to screen and 'Proof' never manages to shake off its theatrical origins and take on a new life of its own. Lines and exchanges, which doubtless pack a wallop when performed live, don't fire the emotions here - almost as if Madden and his cast can't find the right rhythm for what they're trying to achieve.
Despite those failings, 'Proof' remains watchable, with a running time that doesn't try your patience. Despite the temptations at the heart of the storyline, the performances are underplayed, with some nice tender scenes involving Paltrow and Hopkins and Gyllenhaal and Paltrow. It won't stand out as a career milestone on any of their CVs, but it will be higher up the list than 'Duets', 'Bad Company' or 'The Day After Tomorrow'.
Think curiosity, not must see.