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It's always a bit dicey trying to bring a Broadway play to the screen. I'm not talking about splashy musicals like Chicago, which was brought to the screen a couple of years ago, or Rent, which is about to open, but dramas. These plays tend to be short on action, long on talk, have small casts and very few exotic locales. Such is Proof, which was a Tony Award winner for best play and best actress (Mary Louise Parker). I saw it on Broadway when Parker had been replaced by Jennifer Jason Leigh. It was a great play. What's not to like? It's all about geeks! The film version of Proof has now opened with Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead role. She also did the role onstage in London. In Proof, Paltrow plays the daughter of a famous mathematician at the University of Chicago (Anthony Hopkins). As the film opens, her father has just died and it is the night before the funeral. Her sister (Hope Davis) is about to arrive from New York. A young mathematician (Jake Gyllenhaal), a former student of Hopkins, is going through his papers to see if there any important unpublished work. This is unlikely since Hopkins went crazy when he was 27 years old (think Beautiful Mind) and hadn't been able to work since. In recent years, he has been cared for by Paltrow who gave up graduate school in, you guessed it, mathematics, to be with him. Paltrow is dealing with her own grief and her own issues by having a dialog with her dead father. At the wake after the funeral, Paltrow and Gyllenhaal hook up. Funerals are great place to meet chicks! Gyllenhaal has been going through the 100 notebooks of gibberish that Hopkins has left behind when Paltrow shows him one more notebook. It is filled with a complex proof of a major unsolved mathematical theorem (think Fermat's Last Theorem). All hell breaks loose when Paltrow claims that the theory is hers not her father's. Her boyfriend and her sister don't believe her. Their skepticism arises from the fact that Paltrow is showing some of the same symptoms that her father suffered from. She is 27 years old.
Of course, I'm geek and this is a movie about geeks, well, three of the four characters are geeks. And let's face it, Paltrow and Gyllenhaal are two of the best looking geeks you are likely to meet. But as a geek myself, I can say that the story and the characters ring very true. And it has a super cast. Paltrow and Gyllenhaal are good actors who don't just rely on their looks. Paltrow was pregnant while making the movie and as she says, "was trying not to barf." There are a few scenes where she is wearing a parka that may have been filmed when she was visibly pregnant. Anthony Hopkins could stand there and read from the phonebook and make it sound interesting. And mathematical theorems are pretty close to the phonebook so he shows his talent in Proof. Hope Davis (About Schmidt, The Secret Lives of Dentists) is one of the Indie queens and is always great. Proof is directed by John Madden who also directed Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love, one of my favorite movies. in Proof, Madden shows that he can direct a small movie as well. Paltrow is the real star of this film and it's a great role for her. She has a nice chemistry with both Gyllenhaal and Hopkins. Proof actually works very well as a movie if you can stand that it has no car chases, one set, and only four characters who sit around and talk talk, talk. At least Paltrow sees dead people, all the time. This is a movie that will probably disappear from theatres soon so don't wait too long to see it.