Although it looked all set for Oscars when it went into production this adaptation of David Auburn’s Pulitzer prize winning play is a flat affair that only hints at what might have been.
An enigmatic young woman living in Chicago (Gwyneth Paltrow) is haunted by her mathematician father (Anthony Hopkins) after his mental breakdown and subsequent death. Fearing that she may have inherited both his genius and madness, she has to deal with a pushy sister (Hope Davis) and a graduate student (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is keen on reading through her father’s notebooks. Forgetting the cardinal rule of stage to screen adaptations, director John Madden and screenwriters David Auburn and Rebecca Miller (the former adapting his own Pulitzer Prize winning play) never really open the action out. Consequently, we are left with a series of talky scenes which may well have been powerful in the theatre but lack the necessary sizzle for the screen. The actors all do their best (though Gyllenhaal is badly miscast) and the underlying themes are interesting, but the creaky way in which the play has been treated makes it a glossy disappointment. (Buena Vista, 12A)