Couples combine to deliver this romantic comedy with brains. Directing couple Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris follow their first feature, Little Miss Sunshine, with Ruby Sparks. A fantastical film whereby Calvin (Paul Dano) pens a story concerning Ruby (Zoe Kazan) the girl of his dreams only for her to enter his reality. The script was penned by Kazan in her first screenplay and is overflowing with honest humour and originality.
With her grandfather, Elia Kazan, having directed On the Waterfront, East of Eden and her mother, Robin Swicord, writing the screenplay for Matilda and Little Women, Kazan has celluloid in the blood. Her first outing as screenwriter is very impressive and will surely be a career for her if she was ever to tire of acting. The best quality of the film is in its writing, Kazan has put forward insightful, realistic and thought provoking arguments on the entire notion of relationships.
Calvin is a novelist who found fame as a teenager having created an astounding work of fiction and now finds himself with crippling writer’s block. His therapist (played by Elliot Gould) sets him an assignment of coming up with just one page about anything. He settles on the recurring woman of his dreams and Ruby is born. He can’t stop thinking about her, consumed by the power this fictional character holds. When she suddenly appears in his apartment things take a turn for the absurd. At first he can’t begin to contemplate what has happened. Fearing that he has finally succumbed to insanity he flees, and it is only when he realises other people can also see Ruby that he finally starts to comprehend what has happened.
He has created her entire background, every facet of her being and is able to control all aspects of her life. As Uncle Ben put it “with great power comes great responsibility” and as Ruby and Calvin’s relationship seems to be coming undone, he decides to give it a helping hand.
The film is very funny with hilarious laugh out loud moments throughout but it certainly isn’t a puff piece on love. It delves into the darker themes of control and expectations each person has when embarking on a relationship. How ones grapples with all-consuming love whilst trying not to suffocate the flame.
The fact that Ruby and Calvin are a couple in real life certainly can only have helped in improving the on-screen chemistry which is the linchpin of the movie. A good supporting cast of Chris Messina, an almost unrecognisable Annette Bening and Steve Coogan remind us of the brilliance of directors Dayton and Faris. Little Miss Sunshine had the best ensemble cast seen for years and here they have delivered once again. Having cut their teeth in directing music videos their transition to features is commendable.
While it brings to mind the 2006 Marc Forster film Stranger than Fiction, Ruby Sparks has enough novelty to warrant watching. The directors have done stellar work in transforming Kazan’s words to the big screen.
USA / Directed By: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris / Written By: Zoe Kazan / Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Chris Messina, Steve Coogan, Antonio Banderas / 104min / Comedy, Romance / Release: 12 October 2012 (UK/Ireland)