Written by the film’s leading actress, Zoe Kazan, who stars alongside her real-life partner Paul Dano, Ruby Sparks follows novelist Calvin (Dano) who, suffering from writer’s block, begins to write about his ideal woman. Fantasy soon turns into reality, however, when one day his fictional character, Ruby (Kazan), appears in his kitchen, doing whatever Calvin wills her to do in his manuscript. Will it end an a happily ever after? Or will Calvin’s fantasy fall to pieces when it inevitably clashes with reality? As a moral crisis ensues, Calvin must decide whether or not his creations are best kept on the page.
From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, I was hoping Ruby Sparks would leave me just as impressed and as completely charmed as their previous film had done. Instead, I ended up on very neutral grounds about this quirky rom-com.
The trouble is that I like the idea of the film a whole lot more than I liked the film. The concept is brilliant, and there are times when it really comes together and makes you laugh; times where it makes you jealous of the leading couples’ relationship and fools you into thinking that things could be perfect when you actually know all along that things never could be. These times of hopefulness really suit the romantic indie feel to the film and, in parts, it does give you a heartwarming sensation and that’s the films most likeable quality, but unfortunately, it doesn’t stay that way for long enough. Whilst there are also a couple of funny moments, the need for humour was soon lost too.
My main criticism of the film is that I didn’t enjoy the leading couple. Both Dano and Kazan are great actors and each give a brilliant performance, and there’s no denying their easy yet captivating chemistry when the two are a real-life couple. My problem was that I found it hard to like either of their characters. I was hoping this would be the film that made me fall in love with Dano’s acting in some way, but it didn’t do the trick here. In the end, I found it hard to engage with the couple because he didn’t fully suit the romantic lead, at least not with the unconventional twist. His role was brilliant in Little Miss Sunshine but I think it worked so well then because of the seriousness of the film and his experiences. Here, it was all a bit too messy and the foundations of any true feelings didn’t feel real enough. Karzan was much the same, with her mood swings making it hard to care about her character by the end. Whilst she is an extremely quirky actress and takes the lead well, I wouldn’t agree with the comparisons to Zooey Deschanel because she lacked the same allure.
Not liking the leading duo was where it all went wrong for me, but just when I started to come around I found myself becoming depressed by their relationship rather than swooning over an apparent undying love for each other. Concentrating on the reality of a relationship turning sour, making it an almost plausible concept but therefore quite downbeat, it wasn’t as happy-go-lucky as I had expected. Little Miss Sunshine had its dark moments but they were dealt with in a much better way and were placed within a much more suited context. Whilst the darker moments of Ruby Sparks hold a lot of meaning in them, looking at the nature of control in a relationship, it’s the reason for the lack of interest I felt when it came to an end.
With a decent supporting cast including Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas as Calvin’s parents and Chris Messina as his brother, each brilliant in their roles and bringing in some much-needed fun and entertainment in parts, Ruby Sparks is good for a large part, but I wouldn’t class it as a love story. It’s a mostly troubled story about finding a muse, and whilst it is well-written and surprisingly more intense than you would expect a rom-com to be, it probably won’t leave you with much of an emotional response.
At least it didn’t end with “Hi, I’m Calvin.” / “Hi, I’m Ruby.” *Big grins all around, and roll final credits.* Still, it might as well have.