It adds up: Praise for 'Proof': not boring

Here comes Gwyneth Paltrow, re-teamed with her Shakespeare in Love director, John Madden, and gunning for another Oscar. She's doing it the hard way in Proof– without an accent.

Adapted from his play by David Auburn with Rebecca Miller, Proof is about mathematics and mental illness and a woman who thinks she inherited both from her late father.

Robert (Anthony Hopkins), a Chicago professor who did brilliant work before his mind started going at the age of 26 or 27, died of an aneurysm a week ago at the age of 63. His daughter Catherine (Paltrow), 27, wouldn't let him be institutionalized, but looked after him for the last five years of his life. In the middle of that period, he was relatively lucid for almost a year.

Catherine may also be a brilliant mathematician, but she can't tell whether she's losing her mind or just stressed out from worrying that she might.

Her older sister, Claire (Hope Davis), now a New York yuppie, arrives for their father's funeral with an agenda of selling the family home and moving Catherine to New York where she can keep an eye on her.

Keeping an eye on Catherine locally, though he hasn't yet put a hand on her, is Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), a former student– more like a disciple– of her father. She's entrusted him with going through the 103 notebooks Robert filled, apparently with verbal and numerical ramblings, in his last years, to see if he might have written anything worthwhile.

When a notebook turns out to contain a revolutionary mathematical proof, it's not immediately clear whether it was written by Robert or Catherine, who has a similar hand.

The relatively simple story hasn't completely escaped its stage origins, and some jumping around between past, present and fantasy becomes confusing. And what's supposed to be a climactic revelation isn't likely to surprise anyone.

But this multifaceted drama has its moving moments– and a few funny ones. Technical jargon is kept to a minimum, so you don't have to be able to add 2+2 to follow the plot.

Paltrow and Davis are well matched as mismatched sisters whose different values can be summed up in one word: jojoba.

Auburn doesn't give us any characters beyond the principals, but at least those four are well developed, not treated as integers to be manipulated in an equation.

Catherine recalls first meeting Hal: "I thought you seemed not boring." That's how I felt about Proof.