Proof

David Auburn won a Pulitzer for Proof onstage — deservedly so. His play about the daughter of a math genius had humor and bite and benefited from an electrifying performance by Mary-Louise Parker. The sparks go out in John Madden's film version, with a script by Auburn and Rebecca Miller and ring a wan Gwyneth Paltrow. The Oscar winner plays Catherine, a math prodigy who drops out of school to care for her father (a business-as-usual Anthony Hopkins), only to watch his beautiful mind be devoured by dementia. Now, as she prepares for his funeral, Catherine feels she is also losing her grip. A visit from her controlling sister Claire (a shrill Hope Davis) doesn't help. Neither does a quickie with Hal (a callow Jake Gyllenhaal), her dad's former student. He may be using her to gain access to a new proof. Did Daddy write it or did his daughter? Madden directed Paltrow in the play on the London stage, but he does his Shakespeare in Love goddess no favors by filling the screen with big close-ups that betray the theatrical origins of the piece and drain the movie of life and urgency. Proof hasn't been filmed at all — it's been embalmed.

From The Archives Issue 106: April 13, 1972