RUBY SPARKS DVD Review
Struggling novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) wrote his magnum opus at age 19, but is dealing with a serious case of writer’s block a decade later. However, his life begins to change when he begins writing about his ideal mate, who surprises Calvin by suddenly manifesting in his apartment, fully formed from the pages of his unfinished manuscript. That’s the precious-sounding premise for Ruby Sparks, a thoughtful romantic comedy that rebels against its own marketing as a standard indie quirkfest – the anti-Deschanel, if you will.
Its iconoclasm begins with the titular sprite played by Zoe Kazan, who wrote the script as a vehicle for herself and real-life partner Dano. No mere vanity project, Ruby Sparks is both a pointed critique of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype and a cautionary tale about the difference between idealized and unconditional love. The result is one part Stranger Than Fiction and one part Weird Science, buoyed by strong performances from Dano, Kazan, and Chris Messina as Calvin’s supportive older brother, Harry.
The movie is sometimes too overt in its messaging, as when Harry warns Calvin early on that “quirky, messy women whose problems make them endearing are not real” and scolds the author after reading his initial description of Ruby: “You haven’t written a person – you’ve written a girl.” It’s then puzzling when Harry, after discovering that Ruby is real, encourages Calvin to exploit his unique control over his fantasy creation. (Though you get the sense that after bearing witness to scores of male screenwriters fumbling to write believable female characters, turnabout is admittedly fair play.)
For a first-time screenwriter, Kazan (the granddaughter of Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan) displays remarkable poise, assisted by the steady direction of married couple Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine). The DVD’s bare-bones featurettes – none of them more than five minutes in length – don’t provide much insight into this multi-layered collaborative process, but maybe that’s because brevity is one of the movie’s many virtues. An intelligent, unassuming gem of a film, Ruby Sparks exceeds expectations as a modern day fable that’s appropriately bashful and bittersweet.
Calvin is a young novelist struggling with his writing – as well as his romantic life. Finally, he makes a breakthrough and creates a character named Ruby who inspires him. When Calvin finds Ruby (Zoe Kazan), in the flesh, sitting on his couch about a week later, he is completely flabbergasted that his words have turned into a living, breathing person.
– “The Story” Featurette
– “Real-Life Couples” Featurette
– “Be Careful What You Wish For” Featurette
– Theatrical Trailer