Movies: "Ruby Sparks" | Arts & Culture
“Ruby Sparks” is a labor of love by the appealing, 23-year old Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of Elia), who wrote it, co-produced it and plays the title role in this movie.
She’s also the Significant Other of actor Paul Dano (“There Will be Blood”), who co-stars with her in this romantic fantasy, sort of a cross between “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
Dano plays Calvin Weir-Fields, a successful novelist now grappling with writer’s block. He and his scruffy terrier live in a blank, white house in Los Angeles. But when Calvin dreams of an encounter with a pretty woman, his psychiatrist (Elliot Gould, always charming on-screen) suggests he write about it. And wouldn’t you know it, before long the actual subject of that dream appears in Calvin’s home, saying she missed him in bed the night before. Her name is Ruby Sparks.
At first, Calvin thinks he’s gone bonkers, and there’s a wonderfully funny sequence in which he realizes that other people can see her as well. When Calvin explains the situation to his brother Harry (Chris Messina), they put Ruby to a test: Calvin writes that she can speak French, and wouldn’t you know it, as she re-enters the scene, Ruby is speaking nothing but.
So here we have a writer who has conjured up a living fictional character that will do whatever he wishes. Calvin is reluctant to write any more about Ruby; he loves her just the way she is and the two of them are deliriously happy together. But when a visit to his warm-hearted mother (Annette Bening) and her ebullient lover (Antonio Banderas) puts a strain on the relationship, Calvin is tempted to tamper with Ruby’s behavior -- with disastrous results.
“Ruby Sparks” was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who also gave us the delightful “Little Miss Sunshine” (it co-starred Paul Dano as well). As they did in that 2006 movie, the directors let the personalities of their players -- the reticent Calvin and the outgoing Ruby -- lead the way. They get some able assistance from cinematographer Matthew Libatique (“The Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream”) and from music maven Nick Urata, who slips some cool French rock by Plastic Bertrand and Sylvie Vartan into the mix. There’s also a clever musical reference to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” over the closing credits.
As he has shown in his earlier movies, Paul Dano is a compelling actor, and he does a masterful job here of toning it down for his role. Zoe Kazan is sexy and smart here, with the difficult role of playing a living figment of one man’s imagination without realizing it. The chemistry between these two young actors is obvious.
“Ruby Sparks” is rated R for its occasional profanity and sensual themes, but is never overt or vulgar. I think it will appeal to both male and female moviegoers, and give it a B-Plus.