Movie review – Ruby Sparks creates a glow

2012-09-21 11:51

Film: Ruby Sparks (Nu Metro)
Directors: Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton
Featuring: Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, and Chris Messina
Rating: 7/10

Ruby Sparks is a romantic comedy – but not a run-of-the-mill one. It doesn’t go in for the easy boy-meets-girl trajectory.

Instead, it injects the proceedings with a good dose of pathos and at the end of the journey the characters have learnt something rather more valuable than marriage vows, which is the usual conclusion to these sort of tales.

Paul Dano is Calvin, an introverted, troubled young genius who wrote his masterpiece as a teenager and is now faced with having to top it. He lives alone with a dog named after F Scott Fitzgerald, whom he resents for “peeing like a girl”.

Finally, his shrink gives him an assignment to beat his writer’s block – to write about a person who likes him in spite of his dog.

So Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) is born – literally. One morning, Calvin walks down the stairs to find the physical manifestation of the girl he created on page in his kitchen while making eggs.

Kazan, who has been a regular on the movie scene since 2007 as a daughter/sister type of character, wrote this screenplay and what a job she’s done.

She obviously felt that the kind of role she would like to play hadn’t been written – so she got on with it and wrote it herself.

Dano, too, is best known for being the creep in There Will Be Blood, but he started out in another wishful thinking film, The Girl Next Door, and he excels as Calvin, who learns the hard way to be careful what he wishes for.

The rub in Ruby Sparks is not when Calvin discovers that he can control Ruby’s actions by writing them (he writes that she speaks fluent French and, voila, she does), but when he decides he wants to control her.

The terrible truth that Calvin must learn – like all of us – is that you can’t imagine the person you love, you have to love the person they actually are.

It is this aspect of the film that takes it beyond being just another piece of forgettable bubblegum – that, and the performances.

Annette Bening is a scream as Calvin’s new age mother, complete with kaftan and more medicinal plants than you can shake a druid’s wand at; while Antonio Banderas rocks a pair of denim dungarees as her weird furniture-making lover.

Kazan gets the quirky mix just right and her character might be sweet, but she’s not to be confused with a pushover.

Steve Coogan also joins the fray as a pretentious author with lecherous tendencies.

The idea of a character who dreams his or her muse into life isn’t a new one. Kelly LeBrock was wished into existence by two teenagers in Weird Science and you might argue that Calvin’s method of finding the perfect girl is much less crazy than Ryan Gosling’s in Lars and the Real Girl.

While Olivia Newton John’s turn as a live muse in Xanadu (on rollerskates) is best forgotten and Dr Frankenstein’s creation is the spark that created them all.

Kazan is a bright new glow in the movie making firmament, much like Diablo Cody was when she penned the delightfully different Juno.

» Ruby Sparks opens on Friday

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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