Everyone wants to fall in love and in some cases it just happens, and in others you have to make it happen.
Ruby Sparks is a story of a struggling novelist and literary genius Calvin Weir-Fields (played by Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine & Knight and Day) who is trying to get past a writer’s block. And after having a dream about this amazing girl, Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan who takes on a dual role of writer and actor) Calvin brings the fantasy to life by writing about her, and as a result watching her become real person. Never does one imagine that your “dream girl” fantasy can actually become a reality, but in this case Calvin gets the best of both worlds. The premise of the film is a twist between simple and bizarre. It is simple in the fact that it tells a story of finding love, and bizarre in that an imaginary, driven dream girl is created in order to have this love.
Ruby Sparks is a film that evolves in what one might call a three-part story. First, we learnwho Calvin is, next we see his struggle to write another literary masterpiece, and then we meet Ruby, from there the literary fantasy is no longer Calvin’s imagination but a situation that begins to take shape. Ruby Sparks is a quirky, romantic, whimsical story that emanates a sense of desire, charm, pain, and happiness from every direction. With directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris working with newcomer Zoe Kazan they all bring a balance of the reality of life combined with the mythical ingredients created inside of Calvin's impending pages.
First time screenwriter Zoe Kazan (HBO’s “Bored to Death”) should be commended for this film, as she was able to create an original story and have the ability to end it in a way that was not expected. Interestingly, Kazan leaves the movie-goer with some unanswered questions that should be unanswered, so as not to expect the typical romantic comedy ending. Not only has she created a novel film, but Kazan is also particularly charming as the film's title character, showing a range of acting talent that show a lot of promise as a rising star.
Although the film is centered on Dano and Kazan characters, there is definitely an excellent supporting cast that rounds out the film. With roles from Annette Bening (The Kids are All Right) as Calvin's hippy mother ‘Gertrude’, Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots and Haywire) as her carpenter boyfriend ‘Mort’, some definite comic relief from actors Chris Messina (HBO’s “The Newsroom”) as Calvin’s voice of reason/heckler brother ‘Harry’, and Steve Coogan (The Other Guys) Calvin’s dysfunctional agent, and finally Calvin’s therapist Elliot Gould (Contagion), they each one in their own distinctive way add a great sense of complexity and feel to the film.
In addition to a brilliant cast, the cinematography should be a highlighted as well. Matthew Libatique, who is best known for his work with Jon Favreau, Darren Aronofsky and Spike Lee, brings a certain element of subtle gracefulness to the film. Everything from the scenes in the park to Calvin’s perfect condo provides a beautiful and technical backdrop.
Needless to say, there are some awkward moments during the film between Calvin and his family, his agent, and abrupt run-in with his ex-girlfriend, which may have flowed a little better had they been teased out a bit more. However, this may be due Kazan being a novice screenwriter.
Nonetheless, it’s not often that you find young, bright filmmakers, but Zoe Kazan is definitely on the rise with this introductory film effort. Ruby Sparks is not only a film about finding love, but also finding one’s self in this complex world. Overall, this is a likable film with a unique and innovative story.
Rating: 8 out of 10