From the husband and wife duo who directed Little Miss Sunshine, comes Ruby Sparks, a sharp and original romantic comedy.
Calvin is a writer with writers’ block. His therapist asks him to write just a single page and Calvin creates the girl of his dreams, Ruby Sparks. The more he writes, the more he falls in love with her, until one morning she appears in his house. ‘You manifested a girl with your mind... you can make her do anything,’ says Calvin’s brother. But things begin to unravel when Calvin sees Ruby is taking on a mind of her own.
The insightful and clever script is written by Zoe Kazan, who also stars as Ruby. Kazan is the daughter of screenwriters Nicholas Kazan (Reversal Of Fortune, Matilda) and Robin Swicord (Memoirs of A Geisha, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) and clearly has an affinity with writers and their foibles. Kazan impresses with sharp and witty dialogue, delivered by her characters who are believable and deep.
Ruby Sparks has a delightful story that oozes charm and whimsy but is not afraid to take a a more intense look at the darker side of love and loneliness. Exploring the fragility of relationships, the temptation to control and the need to remain an individual, the many strands of Kazan’s story come together in a startling and surprising finish.
Ruby Sparks is a beautifully acted film with a heartfelt performance from Paul Dano as Calvin. Dano confidently explores the many sides to Calvin’s complicated character - a lonely, controlling person frightened of failure and often unwilling to compromise. Calvin is uncomfortable with his early success - having written a hugely successful novel in his late teens, he has since been labelled a ‘genius’ - which is the main source of his writers’ block. Dano deftly portrays Calvin’s difficult relationship with his family and Ruby’s friendship with them signals a major turning point in Calvin’s relationship with her.
As Ruby, Kazan is effervescent and adorable. Calvin instantly falls in love with Ruby’s bold confidence and outgoing nature - she has little interest in fiction and on their first meeting is forthright in calling him disrespectful for naming his dog after author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. As Calvin toys with her emotions, Kazan delivers different versions of Ruby’s personality that are amusing and compelling.
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris approach Ruby Sparks with flair and originality. The duo decided to shoot the film digitally, giving it a different look to their earlier success, Little Miss Sunshine, which was shot on film. Gorgeous scenery is used to evoke the dreamlike nature of Calvin’s early relationship with Ruby from a night time pool scene to a deserted beach, while an evocative soundtrack from Nick Urata beautifully reflects the film’s changing moods. The styling of these unique characters is also stunning, from Ruby’s fiery hair and quirky, purple tights to Calvin’s kooky glasses and relaxed wardrobe.
Ruby Sparks is not all whimsy and fun, it has a darker edge that is honest and deep. Original and clever, Ruby Sparks is a rollercoaster of a film that takes its audience on an emotional journey. A sharp and poignant script with well-crafted and beautifully acted characters, makes Ruby Sparks the romantic comedy of the year. An irresistible gem of a film.
Running Time: 104 minutes
Verdict: 5 stars (out of five)