MovieHype00646 – PROOF
February in the Family Movie Project saw us all watching PROOF. My sister bent the rules a bit, since it was supposed to be movies that we’d seen and were personal to us. But she was having a hard time coming up with anything, and PROOF was coming out on Video, so it all worked out.
Watching PROOF, I was astounded this film hadn’t caught on when it came to awards consideration. Anthony Hopkins continues to be at the top of his game, playing an aging mathematician with mental illness. (I know you’ve heard that recently, a la A BEAUTIFUL MIND, but this performance is every bit as good, if different.) Is the Academy just tired of
I’ve never been a Gwyneth Paltrow fan, but consider: her performance as a genius girl who may be ill herself is ten times—no, twenty times—more complex and impressive than for her Oscar-winning turn in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.
Hope Davis gives outstanding supporting work, as a sister who cares but has her own life to deal with, as does Jake Gyllenhaal, a math grad student who may have discovered something special. (Gyllenhaal continuing his quest to be in every movie made in 2005.)
The Screenplay was another delight: densely packed yet always human, always real. The mental illness wasn’t treated like some saintly thing (that we often see), but nor was it trivialized. The themes: depression, loss, love and family were all human, and the fundamental mystery: who discovered this great “proof,” is handled deftly and will have you guessing to the end.
Hyperion’s Rating Guide.
Suspension of Disbelief: 3. Some of the events stretch logic, but not too bad.
Genre Grade: I’m not sure what the genre exactly is, but the closest movie I can think of to PROOF is GOOD WILL HUNTING. I wouldn’t put PROOF quite there (not as funny), but still, and A- in Genius Drama, let’s call it?
Sex/Violence? Some language, one brief shot of a bra. A teenager could easily watch this.
Kickassability: to me there was quite a bit, because the proof that’s discovered is so cool. You might not think so: 30.
Pantheon Percentile: I think I’ve seen GOOD WILL HUNTING 9 times since it came out. I could see watching PROOF half a dozen times in the next 10 years. 82.
So why was the movie completely ignored, both in buzz and by the public? In my opinion, PROOF is just too smart for most audiences. This is not a movie that you sit there and it just comes to you. I wouldn’t call it difficult to understand, the acting translates to any language, but nor does the film ever pander.
Here’s a good illustration: at one point a band made up of Math/Physics geeks play a song called “i,” referring to the Mathematical term. The song consists of the band sitting there doing nothing for three minutes.
Now, either you just laughed out loud when you read that, or you went, “Huh?” No shame if you’re one of the head-scratchers, but if the joke didn’t immediately bring a smile to your lips, chances are you won’t appreciate PROOF quite so much.
For me, there was another aspect to PROOF that made it difficult to watch. Much is made in the film about how most outstanding work in math and Physics is done early in life. It made me wonder what could have been. There was a time when I was considered almost a Math prodigy, and my life goal was to study (and discover) Time Travel. Different paths, and well, you know: here I am. Watching PROOF, I couldn’t help but think I was watching a piece of my life. Did I throw away what could have been a great gift? I don’t know.
The point is, a mediocre movie wouldn’t move me that way. A lesser film I could ignore, roll my eyes as cliché, and not worry about. Not PROOF. I can’t promise that you will get every joke. The human themes are easy enough, but at no time do they dumb down the tech talk. Either you’ll get that or you won’t. I did, and I loved it.