An endearing and delightfully imaginative rom-com, Ruby Sparks is charming if not some what pretentious at times
Both cool and intelligent, Ruby Sparks offers its audience a break from the normal rom-com, and cooks up something beautifully creative. Leading male Paul Dano again teams up with Little Miss Sunshine directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, for a belated follow-up to the 2006 indie gem while Zoe Kazan is on writing duties as well as playing Ruby in the lead role. Once again, the husband and wife team bring us something special while Kazan's debut script is charmingly originative.
We meet novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Dano) who after a widely regarded and hugely successful first book, has struggled with a follow up. The neurotic Calvin is socially inept and has come to despise the limelight thrust onto him after his successful first novel. Suffering from writer's block in his attempt to write a second novel, Calvin's therapist (Elliot Gould) gives him a writing assignment. Calvin dreams up Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) and immediately begins to fall in love with his fictional protagonist. The next morning to Calvin's disbelief, she has leaped from the pages of his writing, into existence. She is Calvin's dream girl, but as the story progresses, Ruby begins to take on a life of her own, straying away from Calvin's vision. However, Calvin soon realises that he can change her characteristics by simply returning to his typewriter and adjusting his writing. The film takes a somewhat surprising but darker direction as the story unfolds, the resolution is harrowing, and very well acted.
Kazan in the lead role is the ideal pixie film girl, boyish and quirky while her personal problems only make Dano's Calvin fall more in love with her. She suits the role well and perfectly nails the changing moods and tormented personality of her character. However, the character does at points get irritating, similar to that of Zooey Deschanel as Summer in 500 Days of Summer, but her charm eventually does outweigh the pretentiousness of the character. Kazan also really impresses with her first hack at screenwriting and will leave the audience excited to see what else she can do. Dano's performance is understated, his mannerisms and personality traits are spot on as he seeks to show the character's damaged upbringing, however, like Kazan, he sometimes plays too much into his anxious behaviour, which can get annoying. However there is a pleasing 'deer caught in the headlights' aspect to his character which makes him instantly likeable and overall a delight to watch on screen. In terms of supporting cast, Steve Coogan plays fellow author and Calvin's mentor Langdan Tharp. Coogan is oddly miscast, while he does provide some comic relief, his type of humour is unsuited to the story. Chris Messina plays Calvin's older brother Harry and revels in the part, particularly in scenes when himself and Calvin tinker with Ruby's characteristics, they're like two giddy younger boys playing pranks on a bewildered auntie. As well as Messina, Antonia Banderas is perfect as Calvin's misguided, hippy step-dad while Annette Bening plays Calvin's free-sprited mother, completing an engaging supporting cast.
You can't help but compare Ruby Sparks to the works of Woody Allen, but the film has its own charm and certain flavour. Its surrealist zest and upbeat feel will leave the audience more than satisfied while the film's darker undercurrent will please those who want something deeper. Ruby Sparks is wonderful and intelligent and the definite dark horse of October's releases. 3.5/5