Directors: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Steve Coogan
Review Written By: Leonhard Balk
And it's hard on the viewer too. Once the enjoyment, the novelty, of seeing the boy meet his quirky dreamgirl passes, you are left to endure a string of awkward “cute” scenes. And as the relationship goes on, through highs and lows, all you really want the male protagonist to do, is to grab that girl by the shoulders and yell at her: “Why are you always so weird?”.
It's a difficult line to walk, to be both romantic and heartfelt, to have your characters somewhat grounded in reality. “Ruby Sparks” is therefore all the more interesting, for it grounds it's female lead in fiction.
Novelist shut-in Calvin (Paul Dano) dreams up the girl of his dreams and commits her to paper. He writes obsessively about her, until one day, she actually appears in his house. Her name is Ruby and she loves him. She is an unemployed painter, who has moved from 9 different cities in the last 3 years. She is the definitive Manic Pixie Dream Girl, at least on the outside.
It is where the film goes from here, that really distinguishes it from the normal rom-com cannon: Calvin is in an unique position, in which he can actually physically control his dreamgirl. Zoe Kazan, writer and star of “Ruby Sparks”, plays with the idea of the “perfect girl” and thereby exposes problems with the initial set-up of the quirky romantic comedy. Her character sums the main problem up perfectly in the film: ”The quirky, messy women whose problems make them appealing are not real.”
On a more critical note, by carelessly imitating the genre it is criticising, “Ruby Sparks” often falls into using the same tired tropes and clichés that it is trying to avoid. The supporting characters, played brilliantly by the likes of Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Steve Coogan, suffer from “quirk overload”: The free-spirited mother, the step-dad who makes his own furniture, the drug-using womanising writer. None of these characters ultimately help ground the film in reality, but only serve as pretty distractions, a break from the emotional drama at the core of the film.
However, these are small misgivings in a film which, overall, is oddly touching. Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan, a couple in real-life, make for an interesting duo at the centre of a really rather fun film.
By Movie Parliament Minister for History,
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