Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Chris Messino, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas
Sassi’s Star Rating: 4/5
Stranger than Fiction meets The Red Shoes in this romantic-dramedy about love, relationships, and the artistic process.
Prodigy Calvin (Paul Dano) had a New York Times best seller by the age of nineteen. Yet despite premonitions of outlandish success, Calvin has found none lately. Those declarations of ‘the next big thing’ and ‘the new voice of’ morphed from flattery to yoke quicker than one could say writer’s block. Anxiety ridden and alone, Calvin rarely leaves his house unless it is to visit the couch of his psychologist (Elliot Gould).
Calvin’s latest complex is a crisis of masculinity brought on by the fact that his dog, Scotty, urinates like a girl. Scotty had in fact only been bought in the hopes he would be a conversation starter with potential pretty girls in the park. So Dr Rosenthal asks Calvin to write a short story about that very thing actually happening. Though Calvin initially scoffs at the idea, he wakes up the next morning after the most vivid dream about the girl (Zoe Kazan) and can’t stop the words from flowing onto paper.
Immersed in the ideal of the perfect (for him) girl, Calvin promptly finds himself writing their perfect relationship just so he can spend time with her. His brother (Chris Messina bringing a wonderful stability to the fantastical) warns him off writing a love story with the old ethos that you should write what you know, and Calvin definitely does not know relationships. But Calvin believes that what is writing is real to life, until he has to believe that it is real life – because Ruby is standing in his kitchen.
Calvin has written a girlfriend into reality, and with every word that he types on his typewriter he continues to create, and control, her.
Dano and real life girlfriend Kazan (who is also the writer of the screenplay) are excellent in this film which relies heavily upon the charge between the two leads to float.
As a film Ruby Sparks is disconcerting because it mimics the pace of a relationship from the instant and dizzying heights, to those glimpses of unease, to the dramatic and devastating combustion. In such, a film that starts as an overindulgent romance morphs quite suddenly and confusingly into a perturbing drama. Frame this within a narrative that is designed by the mind of our protagonist author, and we end up with a story that is as annoyingly imperfect as the manuscript by the man who defines it.
The delicious Steve Coogan takes a fantastic turn as Paul’s swarmy contemporary Langdon Tharp. Likewise Bening and Banderas are a welcome jolt of electricity as Calvin’s new age parents (whom you honestly which were your own). If only we could have spent more time with them in order to break up the monotony of being in such close quarters with the emotionally draining core couple. But hey, that’s not how it works in a real relationship is it? Suddenly we understand Ruby’s thirst to break free from the relationship, and Calvin’s from the bonds of his writing.
An unneeded Hollywood moment lost points with this reviewer but overall Ruby Sparks is an attractively produced, intelligent piece of cinema that falls somewhere between a love story, a comedy, and a horror film. In other words, it tells the story of a relationship…
Ruby Sparks is in cinemas now.
Category: Film & TV