Saturday, July 14, 2012
Film: Ruby Sparks
Starring: Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood) and Zoe Kazan (Meek's Cutoff)
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine)
U.S. Release: July 25th, 2012 (Limited Release - Rated R)
Runtime: 104 minutes
After building a career off of video documentaries for musical acts such as R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers and Weezer, directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris finally branched out in 2006 with the well received full length feature Little Miss Sunshine. After years of waiting patiently for the perfect sophomore project, the duo received the script for Ruby Sparks, a magical tale of love and the human mind. The film stars the real life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan (who also penned the story) who light up the screen and make the work of Dayton and Faris seem almost effortless. With Ruby Sparks, the tandem of directors are sure to have another indie hit on their hands.
Ruby Sparks follows Calvin (played by Dano), an insecure novelist struggling with both his writing and his love life. After penning an American masterpiece very early in his career, Calvin lacks the inspiration and ability to rebound from the overwhelming success of his first novel. That is until he dreams up Ruby Sparks (played by Kazan), a beautiful and free-spirited young woman that inspires him to write again. And just when Calvin begins to worry that he's falling in love with his character, Ruby inexplicably appears in his real life. Calvin then discovers that, with every word he types, he has complete control over Ruby's actions and feelings. Therefore, giving him more power over the person he loves than anyone could ever handle.
Ruby Sparks is a colorful and imaginative love story that transcends the stereotypical romance movie and explores the raw emotion of human interactions. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris take a clever rom-com premise and turn it into a well ranging psychological tale that circles through every emotion imaginable. Ruby Sparks begins as a magical experience filled with laughter and joy where anything seems possible. And all of a sudden, through the realistic eyes of writer and star Zoe Kazan, the feature unfolds like a genuine relationship between two people where issues of trust and freedom become tested. On one hand, Paul Dano's character is the mastermind of Ruby, prideful and determined to make sure that their relationship succeeds ... no matter what. This obsession with success leads to irrational behaviors and decisions that take Calvin's and Ruby's relationship on a downward spiral to the point of desperation. For such an unbelievable premise, Ruby Sparks is a remarkably earnest and genuine examination of love and relationships.
As well as a top notch script, real life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan aid the authenticity and purity of Ruby Sparks. Their chemistry is obvious and their talents far exceed bigger named celebrities who have made a career off of the romantic comedy genre. Dano is a truly gifted young actor that continues to impress with every new performance. And while Kazan is a lesser known actress, this role is sure to put her on the map and open the door for various opportunities. Kazan not only demonstrates her dazzling ability to act and entertain, she also portrays a strong future as a writer in Hollywood as well. In fact, outside of having no subplots and an ending that may irk some with its blandness, Ruby Sparks is a strong showing on almost every level. Another unfair criticism may come in the form of the screenplay's inability to explain Ruby's arrival. But as the movie and trailer so aptly describe it, sometimes "falling in love is an act of magic". And for as much as people enjoyed Dayton's and Faris' debut Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks only raises the bar.
Unfortunately for many, Ruby Sparks may never get a mainstream release for a larger audience to enjoy. Either way, I strongly suggest searching out this little indie gem in order to dissect its important message. Despite such a wildly out of the norm storyline, the movie ends up feeling shockingly real, thanks to a pair of directors and an entire cast that complete the the difficult feat with ease. And although it may not arrive in your city until August or maybe even September, do the right thing and check out Ruby Sparks. It's the most honest "relationship" movie since 500 Days of Summer and one of 2012's finest offerings.
Stars: 3.5 stars out of 4