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October 11, 2005 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-11

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* Paltrow's performance
saves pedestrian 'Proof'


The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 11, 2005 - 9

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer
The math genius is a well-explored Holly-
wood fixture. From "Pi"
to "A Beautiful Mind"
to "Good Will Hunt- Proof
ing," there is something At the Michigan
strangely compelling Theater
about number savants Miramax
furiously scribbling long
strings of gibberish on
blackboards. Even more so if they're crazy.
Bonus points if the madness is hereditary, as
it is in "Proof." Katherine (Gwyneth Paltrow),
the long-suffering daughter of a celebrated and
very mentally ill mathematician (Anthony Hop-
kins), finds herself grappling with the possible
insanity of her own math genius. It's more than
your typical daddy issue. Katherine all but aban-
doned her own schooling to take care of him in
his sickness, witnessing firsthand the startling
tragedy of a crumbling mind. She fears such a
fate, and for good reason - her father's mental
decline began in his late 20s, Katherine's cur-
rent age. In the wake of his eventual death (from
a brain aneurysm, no less), Katherine plummets
headlong into mourning - as much for the loss

of his mind as it is for the question of whether
she will also lose hers.
It's an operatically emotional process,
one that Paltrow really sinks her teeth into.
As Katherine, she plays injured to excel-
lence, glaring like a wounded dog at anyone
who dares offer a caring hand. This is not
a woman who entertains sympathy - not
from teachers, not from love interests and
certainly not from Claire (Hope Davis,
"About Schmidt"), her efficient, business-
woman sister who flies in for the funeral.
Claire needs but to recommend her favor-
ite conditioner and Katherine sets in with
narrow-eyed ridicule, heartlessly diffusing
Claire's happy praise of jojoba extract with
a scrutiny that far overextends the subject.
In fact, Katherine is so mercilessly logical
that she's virtually unrelatable. Like a stubborn
kid who repeatedly asks "why," she won't accept
societal niceties, and it's only to Paltrow's great
credit that she doesn't end up coming off as an
archetype of sheer belligerence. She whines,
glowers and rolls her eyes like a confronta-
tional teenager, yet she remains believable, as
caustically unlikable as she is desperate to be
respected. Jake Gyllenhaal makes a fair attempt
as the requisite love interest, though in the end
he's left with little to do but mince about like a
lovesick puppy.

Courtesy of Miramad

"Your crazy! I'm crazy! The whole damn family is nuts!"

Paltrow's fine performance should come as
no surprise, though - she knows the territory
well. "Proof" is a screen version of the recent
play by David Auburn, in which Paltrow played
Katherine for several months on London's West
End to high praise. It's that very critically prov-
en source material, however, that ultimately

makes the film's biggest stumbling block - for
what might have resonated on the stage falls
rather flat on the screen. The careful scene-
crafting so crucial to theater gives the movie
an over-structured feel; the story is so painstak-
ingly plotted that it's isolated, even cold.
As a result, the film rings hollow. Direct-

ed with little imagination by John Madden
("Shakespeare In Love"), "Proof" hits every
expected note of the typical high-art drama.
With the exception of Paltrow's notable char-
acter work, "Proof" ends up certainly strong
- but, unlike its pioneering protagonists - far
from memorable.

rap album
hits right
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer

f r . 1

For a few years now, Kanye West,
Common and other "conscious
MCs" have been
futilely trying Little
to save hip hop liteBrother
from some intan- The Minstrel Show
gible, evil force. Atlantic
They renounce
the "ghetto" atti-
tude and its tendencies with feverous
rhymes and embarrassing political
outcries. Ironically, rapping about
how much you hate thugs and their
lifestyle is still rapping about thugs
and their lifestyle.
Little Brother gets thrown into the
mix with early Talib Kweli and Mos
Def as one of the few who actually
got it right. The Minstrel Show, Lit-
tle Brother's latest release, bases its
tracks in classical hip-hop themes:
love, cheating and racial tension. The
obviously sensitive subject matter
- clearly laid out by the album's title
- is preceded by a brief explanation
from the group. They wisely lay their
intentions, on the table and clear the
slate of any presumptions.
The Minstrel Show is a concept
album that gives remembrance to the
deeply troubling minstrel shows of
old. The album is filled with count-
less skits and asides about slavery
and the strengths of the group's
ancestors. "Welcome to the Minstrel
Show" introduces the fake televi-
sion station and the actors (rappers
Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder)
running the show.
Beyond its conceptual aspects,
The Minstrel Show has tight, suc-
cinct beats with politically restrained
lyrics. "The Becoming" displays the
MCs' rhyming skills as they boast:
"But still rated second to none / I'm
everything you want to be but yet to
become." Little Brother slows the
album with "Cheatin'," an R. Kelly-
parroting escapade without the
sexually explicit lines and hypnotic
While The Minstrel Show is clear-
ly smarter than anything recent hip
hoppers have released in a while, it
is certainly not another Quality or
Black On Both Sides. Little Brother
manages to put together a cohesive
group of tracks with the intelligence
that Kanye keeps begging every-
one else to say he has.. It's a shame
that Little Brother is just restating
everything our friends in Black Star
already said.

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