Review: Proof

By | May 31, 2007

For a story about a groundbreaking mathematical proof, Proof had virtually zero math in it.

If you ask me, that’s a good thing.

Let me put my review in the form of a mathematical equation, though. (Because I can. Yes, I know it’s a cheap thrill and there’s no real point to it, but it makes me happy, and that’s what’s important. Go ahead; sit there and mock, you cowards who won’t even comment.)

([tag]Gwyneth Paltrow[/tag]) + ([tag]Anthony Hopkins[/tag]) + (Award Winning Stage Play script) – ([tag]Jake Gyllenhaal[/tag]) = (a very good movie)

Okay, that was a cheap shot at Jake. I actually think he did a really good job in the movie despite, as my wife pointed out, not looking enough like a geek to be a mathematician.

The mood of the film was very important in selling it to me. The director did an excellent job, through pacing, different camera shots, and of course the actors, of creating a situation where you weren’t really sure whether Catherine was loosing her mind. You could go either way… it could just be the pressure of her father’s death after giving up her life to care for him, plus the arrival of her well-meaning, but overbearing sister that’s making her act a little flat, or she really could be succumbing to schizophrenia. She wonders if she’s going over the edge from the very beginning of the movie, and you take the journey with her. To me, that was the real focus of the movie: is she going nuts? Can Hal stabalize her?

While I liked it quite a bit, though, it didn’t make me sit back and go “wow” at the end. It was a good film, engrossing, but didn’t leave me either excited or pondering life. I wouldn’t have minded seeing a little more of a triumph at the end, but that would have been the “Hollywood ending”, and I’m glad they didn’t do that, since it kept it more real. The question that remained open about her future was more satisfying, if not as exciting.

This is a hard one for me to rate, honestly. I really liked it, but it didn’t touch me as deeply as I’d hoped. Maybe it will for you.

For now…. three and half stars.

[tags]mathematics, stage to screen[/tags]

6 thoughts on “Review: Proof

  1. Beckela

    Yes, that WAS a cheap shot at Jake. True, he does not look like the stereotypical geek, but there are many geeks out there who don’t fit that mold. I know a few myself. Do you honestly think there would have been that intense attraction between Catherine and Hal if Hal looked like, say, Robert Carradine? I think not. Gwyneth is no slouch herself, by the way! Jake may be gorgeous, but he wouldn’t be a quarter as interesting if he weren’t such a good actor.

  2. Jeff Post author

    Hi Beckela,

    Yeah, what can I say? I took the pot shot ’cause I could.

    To be a little more descriptive about the “not looking geeky” criticism, though, you bring up a good point. Gwyneth is no slouch, as you put it, but in the movie she really did look paler than normal, bookish, and a bit lost to the outside world. Her stance was a little more slouched, for example. Granted, not all that was due to her “geek” status, but even beyond the physical, she gave the impression, at a minimum, that her character really understood the nuances of the mathematics, whereas Hal was played more like he had an large interest in the topic, but not much understanding. Certainly not enough to be a professional mathematician. Jake chose to play up the romantic lead angle of the character more than the other aspects of the character. While that’s certainly a valid angle, given the story, I think it was too unbalanced in that direction. YMMV.

  3. Beckela

    Good points, Jeff. But, Hal says himself that he will never do anything “great” in mathematics — he comes across to me as a born teacher, which is exactly what he is doing. Without folks like Hal, we’d never have folks like Robert or Catherine. And Hal knows himself, and his limitations, quite well, e.g., that he needs help figuring out the proof. Catherine, on the other hand, has apparently inherited much of her father’s genius — a rarity indeed — which certainly makes her more of a geek. Her father’s illness; her caring for him for so many years, putting her own life on hold; and her own depression (been there, done that) contribute much to her paleness and geekiness as well, IMO.

    I love films/actors/stories that inspire these kinds of discussions. Don’t you?

  4. Jeff's wife

    Don’t get me wrong … I thought Jake, as Hal, was easy on the eyes, and I’m sure there are plenty of good looking “geeks” out there. However, my observation was really that he was in very good shape physically. So much so that it seemed likely that it required more effort and intention than his character seemed to exhibit during the course of the story.

    I don’t know if that makes any sense, or any difference! But I just didn’t want to be misrepresented.

  5. Jeff Post author

    I love films/actors/stories that inspire these kinds of discussions. Don’t you?

    Absolutely. :)

    I don’t disagree with anything you said, but as I said, I think the balance is just a little off.

    (And congratulations! You got my wife to actually post something! You don’t know how hard that is to do!)

  6. Beckela

    Jeff’s Wife:

    Ah, yes. I understand. I long ago stopped noticing actors’ much-muscled bodies that seem inappropriate for the character they are playing. It happens all the time and can be annoying. I wonder if perhaps Jake was preparing for Jarhead while shooting Proof. That body was VERY appropriate for Swofford! I read somewhere that David Fincher asked Jake to lose some of the muscle for Zodiac — quite wise, IMO.

    Jeff:

    I can see what you mean about “balance.” I think I may just see that difference simply as “contrast.”

    Glad I could be of service with your wife! LOL

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