M3 Math Majors Matter ----------------------------------

MATH IN THE ARTS

movie poster

Proof Now Showing in Local Theaters

Leaving the Wilbur Theater in Boston after seeing the play Proof, a theatergoer remarked "This is the year of mathematicians." Proof is now a movie (Distributed by Miramax, staring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins), adapted from David Auburn's Tony and Pulitzer winning play. Three of the four main characters are mathematicians. The father character is loosely based on John Nash, but the story is fiction and takes a very different path from A Beautiful Mind, focusing on the daughter.

The title is apt. Proof's plot is filled with attempts to prove things: sanity, love, correctness of care decisions, theorems, authorship, adulthood to an older sibling. Even the champaign bottle in the first scene is a mysterious counterexample.

In particular, the story asks if proof checking can be an act of love. Checking is violent work. You must try to demolish someone else's creation. But what if you love that person? Is it better to trust condescendingly or to seek the truth and resolve any doubts?

Proof's themes are universal, but the emotional life of mathematicians is dealt with well. Stereotypes are dissected. The math jokes aren't great but it's fun to hear the two waves of laughter: from the people who get them immediately and those that have to wait for the playwright's explanation. Proof's ending is mathematically satisfying. PG-13. (There's a seduction scene in the movie.)
(This review and others of movies with some mathematical content can be found here.)

Three reviews of the movie by mathematicians can be found at MAA Reviews.

If you want to have your review of the movie printed here, send it to Bill Cherowitzo.



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