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“Ruby Sparks” – Review (POSITIVE)

August 9, 2012

Real life, loving, couple Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan star in this bright indie comedy fantasy that evokes classic Woody Allen movies of the old days, with a dash of “(500) Days of Summer” sensibility. “Ruby Sparks” marks the return of the husband/wife directing team of Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, who strangely enough haven’t directed a feature since there 2006 indie hit “Little Miss Sunshine”. This film also debuts the writing talents of the films title star, Zoe Kazan follows in her family’s footsteps as a potentially strong screenwriter.

Calvin Weir-Fields (Dano) is a young novelist who achieved phenomenal success early in his career but is now finally hitting the struggling turmoil every first time author goes through when drafting his or her sophomore novel – writer’s block. His issues with his writing even affect his romantic life. Calvin finally makes a breakthrough, one simple dream about a girl; an eccentric, odd, beautiful, and enchanting girl helps Calvin push himself in the right direction for his new book. He creates a character named Ruby. However Calvin wasn’t expecting to fall in love with this fictional character, while writing her. How does one fall in love with fiction? That is the question until Calvin finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan), in the flesh, sitting on his couch about a week later. He is completely flabbergasted that his words have turned into a living, breathing person.

Kazan’s screenplay borrows familiar elements from a few fantasy films in this subgenre, one that comes to mind I believe would be “Purple Rose of Cairo”. There are similarities where real-life characters fall in love with fictional ones, then without any real reason, the fiction become real. However, I feel that what Zoe was doing in her script was she was telling a story about the deconstruction of a writer’s imagination and how the power of that gift can some times run our lives, in this film it’s taken more literally. Then, once the discovery is made that Calvin can make Ruby do just about ANYTHING with a simple type of the typewriter, there lies a question I think many audiences members were asking; is it moral? Yes, she’s a fictional character, but where does the boundary end and begin? When do you know when your tampering with someone’s free will? The last 10 minutes of the film may come off as harsh and a tad over dramatic, but it answered the question everyone was asking.

Dano & Kazan are real-life boyfriend/girlfriend, who even birthed a child together, sometimes it’s not always the best thing, to combine real-life couples as on screen couples, will there off screen chemistry co-exist with the on screen one? Here, for the most part I think it works just fine, there were a few times where it didn’t quite click, that’s where I go back to the last 10-15 minutes of the film, but before all that, they were terrific together. Zoe is an adorable actress and Dano’s awkward writer character is amusing for everyone’s benefit. The supporting roles in this film are top-notch, especially Chris Messina, who plays Calvin’s older brother Harry. My favorite scene in the film remains when Calvin & Harry discover that Ruby Sparks is indeed for real. We even have some nice cameos ranging from Elliot Gould to Annette Benning, with finally Antonio Banderas.

Living in a time where Hollywood is so full of itself with constant remakes, reboots, or superhero films, it’s quite refreshing to get something small, funny, witty, and thought provoking; whether it’s “Moonrise Kingdom”, “Safety Not Guaranteed”, or even “Ruby Sparks”, sometimes all we really need is originality. And with a film like this that has a clever twist, funny performances, and a talented/attractive lead female star/writer, why not? Am I right?

GRADE: A-

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