Directors: Jonathan Dayton; Valerie Faris.
Starring: Paul Dano; Zoe Kazan; Chris Messina; Annette Bening; Antonio Banderas; Steve Coogan; Elliott Gould.
Plot: A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.
Imagine the manic pixie dream girl come to life. That’s what the story is of Ruby Sparks is… Literally. Written by co-star “dream girl” Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks casts a critical eye over the male tendency to imagine perfection in their romantic interests instead of admiring the reality of their partners, only the female character is literally imagined and produced on-screen as a physical manifestation of this imagination in this picture. The topic alone is enticing, and the delivery manages to wrap this up in the same light-hearted manner that the co-directors’ previous picture – Little Miss Sunshine – does, too, without avoiding any of the darker undertones in doing so. The balance is a difficult one to reach, but I feel it’s reached with the same efficiency inRuby Sparks as it is with Little Miss Sunshine, while still being vastly different through being a much more intimate and somewhat claustrophobic look at interpersonal relationships, as opposed to the wider family-based scope of Little Miss Sunshine. It doesn’t feel as warm as a result, but it’s certainly worthy of having a critical eye cast over it, if not so much a passive one.
The script itself is a little thin, and this is particularly evident throughout the 2nd act of the picture where it seems to steer away from the author/product relationship and the morality of it at the very moments it seems most vital to the plot’s development. These periods do, however, remain interesting and conclude in a much more sinister way with a much more critical outlook on the key protagonist than before. And, like Frankenstein and his monster, Calvin (Dano) becomes a twisted vision of his earlier self and finally confronts the moral conundrum in a sequence of confrontation between the two characters that is not only well written but also sensationally performed by Kazan in particular. This sequence does a lot to lift the picture beyond the interesting topic and critical outlook, and into a story of character and emotion; something that really helps to leave a great impression.
Ruby Sparks is a generally well written, well acted and well photographed piece that succeeds in confronting such an interesting and important topic while remaining personal, and therefore worthy of investment and 1 hour 49 minutes of an intrigued film-lover’s mind.