In “Proof,” Catherine is a woman who doubts her own sanity, after her dad dies. And when her sister Claire arrives from out of town, her tension and doubts become much too apparent. Claire doubts her sister’s sanity, and after the first twenty minutes you will, too. Madden’s film is based on the play of the same name, and judging by the way the entire film is conducted, it’s not hard to fathom. “Proof” conducts itself like a play. There are simple and scarce set pieces, all of which are there to serve the actors who stand around trading dialogue at rapid fire paces, screaming at the top of their lungs. They think it’s dramatic, but often times it’s utterly shrill.
I was wondering often, if this was a film about a young woman learning to move on from her father, or a young woman grasping with the possibility of becoming mad like her father, because Madden can never really decide which angle to play, thus it feels scatter brained, and haphazard. “Proof” sadly ends up as “A Beautiful Mind”-lite including the delusions, and I could never relate to Paltrow’s character as much as I’d hoped, because we never delve well enough into her tortured mind and her inner-conflicts, we delve much too often into the whiny introvert that I found difficulty sympathizing and rooting for in the end. Meanwhile, there’s always this running around the topic of mathematics and the specifics behind it, yet noticeably, there’s no real delving into it.
What we expect would be the center of this little melodrama really ends up being there just as window dressing painting it as more than a simple drama about a girl who is sure she’s losing her mind. We’re constantly given lingo that’s simple enough to convince us they’re mathematicians, but they never really get into specifics, even when referring to “The Proof,” which really ends up as a giant McGuffin. Everyone wants “The Proof,” but the writer can never explain what it actually is. The rest is pure loud and droning melodrama with a cast of actors who yell for the sake of yelling, to enrich the melodrama, and beam down on Paltrow who struggles with her sanity, and moans about how much she loved her father, played by Anthony Hopkins who is utterly under-used, and downplayed.
One of the few highlights of “Proof” is Hope Davis as the overbearing and often passive Claire who bickers incessantly with Catherine in an attempt to bring her back from her depression and lingering on their father. Davis and Paltrow’s chemistry is palpable, and the moments worth remembering are the moments when Davis and Paltrow share the screen with one another. In spite of the lovely Hope Davis picking up the slack, providing interesting chemistry with Paltrow, “Proof” is basically a limp, and utterly pointless melodrama that’s never as intelligent as it thinks.