Sunday, June 04, 2006

Proof in Proof

(Miramax Films, 2005)
Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal

Slant Magazine (1.5/4)
As with many of their past films, Miramax foolishly "cleaned up" Proof to be palatable to teenagers (several scenes bear postproduction looping, taking the word "fuck" out whenever possible), though I couldn't imagine why. Instead of probing, thoughtful ruminations on madness and genius, we're treated to a trite, PG-13 version of the same, which in turn dilutes what made much of Auburn's play relatable. And what Rebecca Miller was actually needed for on this adaptation will forever remain a mystery. Auburn's play was taut enough as is, and all of the movie's additional scenes are wretched, creating customary "Oscar" clips that completely go against the grain of the characters. One low point has Paltrow smugly taking over a church podium at her father's funeral (never seen in the play) and speechifying, something this woman would never, ever do. When shown as mostly passive in virtually every other scene, it makes absolutely no sense except to awards whores, who will lap up any scene in which Paltrow gets teary. And some of the added dialogue sounds like it drifted out of a Lifetime movie with Lindsay Wagner. In another example of the out-of-character idiocy on display, Davis's icy sister suddenly turns maternal, cradling a sobbing Paltrow while telling her, "You didn't kill Dad. He just died." (This is the work of two accolade-decorated writers?)

Hopefully, Proof's failure will be a wake-up call to every studio executive who waits with bated breath to leap on the writer who pens that year's Tony Award-winner for Best Play. (Which means watch your back, John Patrick Shanley.) There are a dozen ways this work could have adapted successfully with a little vision, but c'est la vie, one supposes. But they didn't kill Proof. It just died.

-Jason Clark

Note: Score ratings in bold are Select Reviews, and "( )" the authors cited.