mon 15/07/2024

Ruby Sparks | reviews, news & interviews

Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks

A modern Pygmalion finds creating his literally perfect woman doesn't make love any easier

Ruby (Zoe Kazan) and Calvin (Paul Dano) write the book of love

From the makers of Little Miss Sunshine comes a funny, ethereal love story in the same vein as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Sunshine’s not all they have in common.

Calvin Weir-Fields (smash the surname and you get Weirds) is a bestselling author - or was, back in the day when he was a teen. Now, he’s in second novel hell. As played by Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), Calvin's tall, nervy, nerdy, sweaty and only occasionally confident. His psychiatrist (nicely cast Elliot Gould) is there to help him through writer’s block until the “muse” appears. 

And so she does. Unlike Sharon Stone as the luck-bearing muse of the underrated comedy actually called The Muse, Zoe Kazan (pictured right, Meeks' Cutoff, It's Complicated) appears faun-like as the novelist’s perfect woman - thin, young, pretty, amusing, cheerful, happy, et al. She’s goofy/sweet, wears offbeat clothes and really ugly socks. But, Ruby’s perfect for Calvin. Well, she should be because he’s written her - Ruby is literally his invention in every sense of that l-word. Whatever he types out on paper, she becomes.

A real crowd-pleaser, this daffy story of a modern day Pygmalion is endearing, irritating, charming, unchallenging entertainment. Much like the co-directors’ first feature, Ruby Sparks tiptoes into sensitive areas but avoids slopping over into offensive territory. It satisfyies too: the logic of the story never goes awry. Nothing takes the audience out of the moment, even as this magical relationship prances back and forth from paradise to real life annoyance and back again.

Ruby Sparks packs enough surprises to stop simple-minded second-guessing - no mere feat - yet its real magic kicks in about three-quarters of the way in. Harry, Calvin’s handsome, "normal" brother (beautifully played by Chris Messina, working a fine thread of inner jerk/outer 'guy') pushes the envelope, taking advantage of Calvin to see how far Calvin's power over Ruby goes. A visit to the Big Sur outpost where the boys’ mother (Annette Bening, pictured above left) and her new artist lover (Antonio Banderas) live proves a hearty test for Calvin and Ruby. The relationship gets its ultimate trial at a party where the ignored Ruby meets Calvin’s sleazy agent (Steve Coogan, of course). 

With clean locations and settings dazzlingly shot by cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Ruby Sparks feels like a nifty two-handed play, made more intimate and beguiling by real-life couple Dano and Kazan. The former is brilliantly cast and the latter is such an accomplished performer she makes the demanding Ruby role look easy. Co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris may not have bottled the lightning of Little Miss Sunshine, but they’ve woven another spell - one of the tenderness, vulnerability and the sheer private suspicion of falling in love with someone so perfect for you that they reveal your own horrible flaws in bas-relief. Beyond the amusing pop-psychoanalysis of it all, Ruby Sparks flourishes as a delightful, meaningful frolic. It may not be a great first date movie but as a choice of a fifteenth date movie, golly, you could find no better.

It feels like a nifty two-handed play, made more intimate and beguiling by real-life couple Dano and Kazan


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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