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Movie review - Ruby Sparks

Posted by: Shannon Harvey | 20 September, 2012 - 12:01 PM
Ruby Sparks

RUBY SPARKS (M)

Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas

Released: September 20, 2012

 

 

Last week we talked Kath & Kimderella, which reveled in a bit of low culture and had low expectations, Not surprisingly, it came with a low score!

So it’s nice to shift gears with a bit of higher culture, higher expectations and a higher score.

 

 

Last week we talked Kath & Kimderella, which reveled in a bit of low culture and had low expectations, Not surprisingly, it came with a low score!

So it’s nice to shift gears with a bit of higher culture, higher expectations and a higher score.

Ruby Sparks is a button cute Indie rom-com from the makers of Little Miss Sunshine. It’s written by its young star Zoe Kazan – who plays Ruby — and centers on gifted young writer Calvin (Paul Dano, who starred in Sunshine).

He penned a great American novel as a teen and is now struggling with writer’s block. He’s a bit of nerdy shut-in with no friends. But he begins to dream of a beautiful girl. His dream girl! His therapist (Elliott Gould) suggests he write it down, so he does — furiously — until POOF! Ruby Sparks (Kazan) appears in the flesh.

At first, his older brother (Chris Messina) doesn’t believe it. But soon Calvin accepts Ruby as his dream girlfriend and the two have a wonderful time.

Calvin knows he can make Ruby do whatever he wants — and be whoever he wants — just by writing about her. So when Ruby gets off his literary leash and becomes her own women, he simply re-writes her back into shape.

There’s a dark center to all this wish fulfillment here. As Calvin’s conundrum comes to a head, it’s all about controlling someone’s fate and what you do with their fate to make yourself happy.

It’s been tackled before in really great stories like Pygmalion and Frankenstein and good films like Stranger Than Fiction (Emma Thompson & Will Ferrell) and even that 80s geek fantasy Weird Science.

Yet I really enjoyed Ruby Sparks. It’s light, bright, breezy, funny, quirky, hip and very enjoyable. And I’m really impressed that it’s written by Kazan herself; a relative newcomer with some famous relatives (her grandfather is Elia Kazan, director of On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden and more).

 

But I think it falls a bit short of being a great film about writing. Writing is the art of creation, only here the creation springs to life as the writer’s dream girl, and she gets away from him. She gets a life of her own. So he tries to write her back. Does he make her his fantasy girl? Kill her off? Let her go free?

 

Sadly, the film struggles to conclude its curious question with a satisfactory solution. It’s almost as if the film writes itself into a corner in that all-important final act.

 

So Ruby Sparks stops short of being up their with the best films of its ilk like Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation or Stranger Than Fiction, where Ferrell actually knows that Thompson plans to kill him off in the end.

 

That said, it’s just about the most charming film of the year thanks to the performances of real-life couple Dano and Kazan (Kazan wrote it with them in mind). Dano is totally convincing as this tortured Holden Caulfield type with deeper issues. Kazan is a revelation as this manic pixie dream girl with flame red hair & wide blue eyes. They are adorable and one of the cutest movie couples ever.

 

The support cast – not so much! Messina looks nothing like Dano’s brother, and their hippy parents (Annette Bening & Antonio Banderas) take the film into wacky Meet the Parents style territory.

 

So Ruby Sparks is as charming as its adorable leads and a thoroughly enjoyable film. But it falls short of being the great film it could have been — and desperately wants to be. Ironically, a quick re-write might have done the trick!

 

Score: 7 / 10

 

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