Wednesday, October 05, 2005

2 + 2 = Smearing Myself In My Own Feces

2005, USA
John Madden

I always find the filmed version of a play to be an interesting viewing experience. It’s much like spending a few days watching nothing but CSI reruns on Spike TV only to accidentally stumble upon a partially scrambled satellite feed of a Japanese game-show. Sure, they’re the same format and consumed in a similar viewing environment, but one is a tightly wound police procedural thriller with a scientific twist, and the other is clear evidence that A-bomb radiation is bad for the gene pool. It’s fairly easy to spot a play that’s been morphed into a film, usually because they don’t bother to do much adaptation, as the original script already comes in a spiral-bound format with a cardstock back and a clear plastic cover. So why go through the trouble of typing the whole thing up again with a retouch when you can just bring it to Top Copy and slap it on the company credit card? If ever in doubt, just use the following checklist to determine if your favorite film was adapted from an existentialist drama written by a guy in a black turtle neck with glasses like Rivers Cuomo.

1) The dialogue sounds like something no one would ever say unless they’ve been watching Glengarry Glen Ross for a weekend.
2) It’s said very loudly nonetheless.
3) It’s shot in three places, and still has less speaking roles than locations.
4) Everyone faces the camera like it’s a police lineup and they just hijiaked a cigarette truck.
5) You’ve never heard of it.
If more than one of the above is true, you're probably watching a crappy play with the benefit of an extra camera angle or two. If only #5 is true, then you might actually be watching a good movie.

He doesn't look like he could write a shopping list, let alone a script. And who the hell wears a vest?

All these things apply to Proof, though not nearly as much as they did to Closer. And it’s in comparison to films like Closer that this film shines. Proof never really manages to rise above its staginess, but at least I didn’t feel like setting off the test ring on my cell-phone to try and throw off Natalie Portman’s rhythm so she doesn’t sound like a robot running David Mamet lines. Director John Madden probably isn’t the same enormously fat man who makes $14 million dollars a year noting the glaringly obvious on Monday Night Football, and that might explain why he has a better grasp of the material than most, and seems to have at least partially understood that there’s a difference between acting for the stage and acting for film. Not too many people seem to be able to identify that there’s a difference between the two, and a lot of adapted films are still performed as plays, which is a terrible idea, since talent in theater has largely been replaced by the ability to yell back to the cheap seats and remember the lines to a terrible Andrew Lloyd Weber song. Proof however, manages to at least flirt with the ability of film to create an intimate environment, though it never gets past the batting eye contact over a crowded dance floor and into the drugged-drink and non-consensual anal intercourse stage of the relationship. Proof stars the surprisingly talented Gwyneth Paltrow as Catherine, the daughter of a brilliant but insane mathematician, played by Anthony Hopkins. Paltrow plays the nuances of her depressed character well, especially when compared with Hopkins, who seems to have phoned in his performance with a mouth full of pork rinds. Not only is he not really trying, he’s beginning to look all florid and inflated, like he’s pregnant with W.C. Fields. The story takes some interesting twists and turns before coming to an all-too pleasant conclusion, but there are some real moments of tension, odd from a movie that features neither an alien invasion nor a drag race. Paltrow gives up her education and talent to care for her father, and the issue of lost potential is brought up through her as well as through her father. She begins to suspect that along with her talent, she may have inherited some of his insanity. I'd probably go crazy too, it I were married to Chris Martin. I'd have to listen to him whine over a piano riff stolen from an Elton John song, and there'd be all that bitching about fair trade coffee and spending three days in thrift stores looking for suitably distressed jeans. The fine line between insanity and genius has been drawn in the sand before, however, as has the line between math and crazy, so much so that it’s becoming a bit of a cliché. My mother is a mathematician, and she’s not crazy, though if she tells me one more time that I should try and cure my insomnia by ‘relaxing’ I’m going to have her committed out of spite.

That's right, Mom. One more career suggestion and I'm replacing your Thorazine drip with oxygen bubbles.

Actually, I’m thinking of going insane just to have an excuse for not doing anything with my life. I’ve got a lot of raw talent in a lot of areas, including innovative racial slurring and the ability to differentiate real breasts from silicone enhanced ones just by slitting them open, but I’ve got no drive whatsoever, and I’m hoping my complete lack of social skills will provide the basis for a drive to be full-fledged crazy by the end of the year. Truth be told I’m sort of looking forward to it. Not only do I get sympathy and a lithium prescription, but I get to scratch myself for three days straight without having an itch, just in case I get one later. I wouldn’t have to cook anymore, for fear that I’d try to liven up Kraft dinner with real shredded cheddar cheese and four milk bottles full of refrigerated semen, and I could blame my increasingly hostile emails to key figures in the banking industry as the result of a sort of internet Turret’s syndrome, instead of virulent anti-Semitism. Which is as good enough an explanation for this website as any, I suppose.


Blogger Ash Karreau said...

Re-Read the Proof review, now with added jokes!

11:58 a.m.  
Blogger Sam Kahn said...

I actually really liked Closer.

Can't really say anything about Proof, because I didn't see it.

About Hopkins, though... a friend went to see a screening of Proof here in LA with a Q&A with Anthony Hopkins. My friend said it was kind of sad, it seemed like Hopkins was kind of losing it. Maybe he's getting too old.

5:18 p.m.  
Blogger Ash Karreau said...

I like Closer as well, I suppose. Actually, I guess I just liked it as a play. As a film, some of the stuff Nichols did was interesting, but it was just so stagey and awkward.

6:37 p.m.  
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3:25 p.m.  

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