Release Date: October 12th
Six years since the release of the indie hit Little Miss Sunshine, husband-wife directorial team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have returned with Ruby Sparks, a hilarious new indie flick that blends elements of rom-com and fantasy. Somewhat reminiscent of Stranger Than Fiction, Ruby Sparks tells a story that is steeped in romantic irony, asking for a suspension of disbelief not just from the audience but from the film’s own characters as well.
As a teenager, Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) wrote a massively successful novel. In the years that have followed he has descended into a Salinger-esque rut, a limbo of hipster frustration in which he can only sit in front of his retro typewriter and bemoan his lack of inspiration. It is upon the advice of his shrink (Elliott Gould) that he creates the character Ruby Sparks; an enchanting and beautiful young woman with whom Calvin begins to fall in love, only for her to come off the page and into his life.
Played by the talented Zoe Kazan (who also wrote the film), Ruby is cute and quirky in just the right amounts. It would take a hard heart not to be charmed by Kazan’s creation; a character who has surprising believability and depth, despite the obvious setback of being a fictional character existing within yet another layer of fiction. The real-life couple of Dano and Kazan have wonderful chemistry, bringing great authenticity to their on-screen relationship. The natural dynamics between Calvin and his macho brother Harry (Chris Messina) are another of the film’s most enjoyable aspects, as they gleefully share in their boyish excitement and confusion at the incredible events unfolding around them.
Along with pop-culture references and just the right amount of schmaltz, the film features an impressive score from Nick Urata (and a handful of French pop songs thrown in for good measure). The only notably weak points are the scenes in which Calvin and Ruby visit Calvin’s mother and step-father (Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas). These scenes throw the action slightly off course and briefly threaten to enter Meet the Fockers territory. Thankfully the film quickly veers back on track, building its way up to the ever-looming denouement, allowing you to suspend your disbelief and be carried away by this charming love story.
In a Nutshell: For anyone who fancies themselves as a writer or a romantic, this clever and original love story will not disappoint.