Ruby Sparks

24 Feb

ruby sparks

 

 

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Writer: Zoe Kazan

Stars: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 104 minutes

 

This is a film made by couples about couples. The directors are Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the real-life couple behind the indie breakout Little Miss Sunshine. The stars are real-life couple Paul Dano, who featured in Sunshine, and Zoe Kazan (who also wrote this). As the product of 2 working couples, Ruby Sparks feels intimate and it is clear that it is a sincere effort with some highly astute observations about relationships as one would hope.

Dano plays Calvin Weir-Fields, a solitary twenty something struggling on his second novel having had great success with his first. He lives in the hills above LA in a modern, but austere home with his small dog. Calvin has few friends and his main social interaction comes via his older brother. This is good casting; Dano is excellent as the awkward and somewhat drifting novelist. You can feel Calvin’s frustrations building and it comes as no surprise that he fantasizes about an amazing young woman coming into and shaking up his life. He needs a muse and he needs shaking up.

Calvin’s dream girl is Ruby Sparks. He creates her on the page, but almost immediately she becomes real. That transition is smart and funny. In fact the first half of the film is excellent and throws up some neat surprises and some great lines. Dano is completely thrown by the incursion of his dream girl and Zoe Kazan as Ruby Sparks is wonderful.

My feeling with Ruby Sparks is that the film-makers started production with a great concept, but not clarity on the tone. Accordingly the first half of the film is good, but thereafter it falters. Kazan wants to show how controlling one half of a couple can become. Also, that perfect partners are rarely that and how easy it is to start looking for something better. Those are serious themes and the film does get darker towards the end. That’s OK, but the darkness clashes with the early laughs and the conclusion flips back to the kooky indie side again.

Kazan is a decent writer and a very good actress on this showing. Clearly she and Dano have a lot of chemistry and there is nice supporting work by Elliott Gould, Steve Coogan and by Annette Bening. Many of the constituent parts work, but the end result does not. This is a good concept stretched too thin and Ruby Sparks is a much weaker personality than Little Miss Sunshine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: