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‘Proof’ unhurt by move to screen

‘Domino’ falls flat.

by and

SOMETHING TO PROVE: Catherine (Paltrow) opens up to Hal (Gyllenhaal).
  • SOMETHING TO PROVE: Catherine (Paltrow) opens up to Hal (Gyllenhaal).

It’s always a gamble when a beloved play, book, television show or movie is adapted for another medium, but the recently released “Proof,” adapted from David Auburn’s play about a daughter and her brilliant, mentally ill mathematician father, successfully captures the Pulitzer-Prize-winning play’s essence.

The emotionally stronger sister in her family (an irony since she is so fragile throughout most of the story), Catherine dropped out of college to care for her father, Robert, a once highly respected professor at the University of Chicago.

The movie opens with Catherine reflecting on the last five years of her father’s life and his recent death as she celebrates her 27th birthday with cheap champagne and late-night infomercials. She waits as Hal, one of her father’s doctoral students, ends another fruitless day spent sifting through hundreds of notebooks in Robert’s office, hoping to find a mathematical proof of value amid the furiously written nonsense Robert wrote in his manic states.

Gwyneth Paltrow owns the role of Catherine, bringing her special brand of melancholy to the role. Paltrow is joined by Jake Gyllenhaal, who shines in another sensitive-hottie role as Hal, and Anthony Hopkins as Robert. The talented Hope Davis (whom you may remember for her role as Harvey Pekar’s wife, Joyce Brabner, in “American Splendor”) rounds out the cast as Claire, Catherine’s seemingly perfect sister who is obsessed with writing to-do lists.

The authenticity of the characters’ language, much of it lifted directly from the play’s script, strikes a chord, from the tender, casual moments between father and daughter to Catherine and Claire’s serious yet hilarious sisterly exchanges.

In the wake of her father’s death, Catherine is reduced to an almost childlike state. Her isolation is palpable, and her impenetrable exterior melts only when Hal wins her trust or when she is lost in her fear that she is destined for her father’s fate. As the story unfolds, Catherine lets Hal take a groundbreaking proof from her father’s office. Hal, eager to unlock the secrets of a brilliant man, is unsure whether to believe Catherine when she tells him that it is she, and not her father, who wrote it. Claire stumbles in her efforts to safeguard her sister from a life of mental “instability,” and Hal realizes there is still merit in a “great man without his greatness.” Add to this story of a father’s legacy to his daughter the ever-present droll wit and far-reaching truths about human nature, and this film touches one in a way that can’t be compared.

— By Becca Gardner

‘Domino’ falls
There are two kinds of movies that depress me: Those that fail from not trying hard enough, and those that fail by trying too damned hard. Sadly, I have a new addition to make to the ranks of those movies that tried to jump a bus and ended up sailing off the planet: the new Hollywood-meets-bounty-hunter flick “Domino.” Though “Domino” is often a gorgeous thing to look at, shot in a washed-out speed-freak haze of color by director Tony Scott, it turns out to be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. With a cast of thousands, an Easter basket full of too-hip devices (lines of dialogue scrolling across the screen, soundtrack echoes, skewed time, rewound footage, etc.) and a wholly unlikable brat of a main character, “Domino” squirms, crawls, tumbles, dives, jumps, twists and turns until it finally manages to break its own neck.

“Domino” is based (loosely) on the life of L.A. model-turned-bounty hunter Domino Harvey (played here by Keira Knightley), who recently died of a drug overdose at the age of 35. Beyond that, forget any recap of the major action of the film here. I sat through the whole thing, not even answering when nature and my bladder-buster soda called, and I still couldn’t lay out the plot for you with a slide rule and a flow chart. Suffice it to say, however, that it includes driver’s license forgery, the theft of $10 million from an armored car (by thieves dressed as former first ladies, including Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush), the world’s youngest grandmother, amputation by shotgun, a Jerry Springer cameo, Christopher Walken, waiting in line at the DMV, a coffee thermos full of mescaline, a pit bull named Chi-Chi, an Afghani Winnebago driver, Tom Waits, a privacy bubble at the bottom of a swimming pool, the WB network, a ghostly goldfish, “Beverly Hills 90210” stars Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green (as “celebrity hostages”), a meeting of Nymphomaniacs Anonymous, and eight pounds of plastic explosive.

When a movie this ambitious hits (as in “Pulp Fiction”), it’s a thing to behold. When it doesn’t (as in “Natural Born Killers” and “Domino”), the flaming wreck is too horrendous to watch. Though Knightley is supposed to be playing a hard-boiled bounty hunter, she mostly just ends up looking bored, slightly pissed, and totally unconvincing. It doesn’t help that we never quite get to see her doing any actual bounty hunting (other than a bust-gone-bad that ends with Knightley giving the leader of a Latino gang a lapdance — which must have really bought her a ton of credibility with her co-workers). Most of all — for all her numchuk-flipping and shotgun-toting — Knightley’s Domino Harvey comes across as a spoiled rich kid play-acting at being a badass until the chic wears off.

Better are a chipped-from-hoary-oak Mickey Rourke as Domino’s mentor Ed Moseby, the underrated Delroy Lindo as a bail bondsman looking to score in order to pay for an operation on his mistress’ grandson, and comedian Mo’nique as a put-upon DMV worker who sets off some big ripples in the underworld pond when the FBI comes calling. Try as they might, however, they just can’t save this romp through the gutter. Our advice: wait and rent the DVD. Be ready to rewind a few times in order to sort things out.

— By David Koon

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