Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Burden of Proof

I was entertained this past weekend and now I feel guilty. It took a couple days for this to hit me, probably because most movies I rent end up being so bad I live to regret them even at Blockbuster prices. The movie I saw this past weekend, Proof, was not one of these movies.

For those of you who haven't seen it, Proof is the story of a promising young mathematics graduate student named Catherine (Gwyneth Paltrow) who drops out of college to care for her equally brilliant but mentally ill father, a mathematics professor named Robert played by Anthony Hopkins. Following his death Catherine's older sister arrives from New York to help wrap up family affairs. Older sister is well-meaning but domineering, and her persistent doubts about Catherine's mathematical abilities leads Catherine to question her own sanity.

That's the basic plotline. Trust me, it's better than I describe it.

I have trouble watching medical or forensic movies. I usually don't gravitate toward movies about serial rapists, homicide detectives or other psychotic killer types. Even watching this movie I couldn't help thinking that perhaps Catherine had done her father an injustice by keeping him at home, out of the hospital. According to the storyline, Robert developed mental illness near the end of his life after a long and successful career. I couldn't help wondering if Robert really did belong in a hospital initially, at least for a good diagnostic workup. I had to remind myself that this was fiction, and fiction with a lot of precedent: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Fisher King, Prince of Tides, All About Eve. Movies about mental illness are no different than dramas based on physical diseases. Where would Love Story be without cancer?

So why the guilt?

I've been having flashbacks to Dinah's post That's Entertainment. In that post Dinah talked about a reality show that featured people with real psychological problems being placed in a house together. I realize that reality shows are different from fictional movies, but I couldn't help thinking that crippling brain diseases should not be entertaining. But Proof was. It made me think about the sacrifices that have to be made to care for elderly or disabled relatives, and the compromises that siblings make to maintain their own relationships in these situations. It was about love and devotion, and more than a little guilt.

I guess that's the burden of Proof.

10 comments:

Dinah said...

As I've taken to telling patients, it's good to reserve Guilt for when you've injured someone. Enjoy whatever entertains you, Clink, life is short.

ClinkShrink said...

I'm thinking about a hot fudge sundae.

Dr. A said...

I think you reviewed this movie just so use that witty title for your post. Granted, I would do the same thing. *grin*

I see your point about the guilt. I haven't seen Proof, but probably will now, but I thought about A Beautiful Mind (which has probably been blogged about here in the past).

Physical and/or mental problems are not entetainment, per se, but popular culture, at times, treats them that way. And, I do catch myself with my doctors hat on asking myself if that was my patient -- what would I do?

And, then someone whacks me across the head saying, "Dude, it's just a movie. Can you stop working for one second? We can't take you anywhere. Sheesh!"

Dinah said...

Hi to Dr. A, what a cute comment, and you know, we can't take Clink anywhere, either (Roy is more portable, I think). Oh maybe it's not true, we did stick her on a segway and watch her zooooom (try it, Dr. A, it was a lot of fun!)

A Beautiful Mind is much older than the blog; from a shrinky point of view, it was mostly a cinematic trick, not true to the real story, and the psychiatry of it all was pretty far off the page, more theatre than anything Love conquers all via Hollywood, and not a true-to-life version of John Nash.

The good thing is I never take my movies too seriously (HA!)

So, Dr. A, want to come over and watch ER on thursday?? And then there's always Huff, which I've yet to blog about.

Dr. A said...

Sure I can come over. Is it ok if I bring some friends with me? They're harmless, but can get a little nuts sometimes. Click here.

ClinkShrink said...

And, then someone whacks me across the head saying, "Dude, it's just a movie. Can you stop working for one second? We can't take you anywhere. Sheesh!"

Yeah, that's what they say to me too. Followed by, Put down the duck."

Roy said...

So, the Proof is not in the pudding, but rather in the hot fudge sundae. [ducking and running..]

ClinkShrink said...

Roy, you can run but you can't hide. You will still get your just desserts. But no sundaes for you!

Sarebear said...

The duck stops here. Have you passed the duck to Roy? He just ducked out . . .

Perhaps, as time goes on, it'll morph into a goose ala duck . . . duck . . . goose . . . .

Just don't goose me! I'm already a silly goose . . .

Um. Kinda silly today, sorry!

Murky Thoughts said...

This seem like a professional variant of the pop desire for happy endings. Imagine the guilt of the writer who kills her protagonist or her dog or her brother or whatever. I personally don't hold it against Sophocles or Shakespeare for engaging me in tragedies. But I am actually morally or moralistically opposed to the mockumentary form ala Christopher Guest. I feel like these movies pander to a desire to feel superior and encourage an instinct to simply dismiss other people's perspectives ('cause clearly a lot of people just don't "get it" [" but this one goes to eleven"]). I was in love with Spinal Tap as a disaffected teen, but by Guffman and Best in Show my moral hackles were raising. Nobody I know seems to shares my take. I guess I'm just morally superior.