At the Movies - Ruby Sparks - review

Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) and Paul Dano (Calvin Weir-Fields) in 'Ruby Sparks'.
Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) and Paul Dano (Calvin Weir-Fields) in 'Ruby Sparks'.

Ruby Sparks is not your typical love story.

Gifted but struggling novelist, Calvin Weir Fields (Dano), attempts to find love in the most unorthodox of ways by creating his ideal woman, Ruby Sparks (Kazan), on the pages of his new book.

Zoe Kazan.

Zoe Kazan.

Calvin wakes up one morning to discover that Ruby has somehow become real and she’s making him breakfast in his kitchen.

Calvin soon realises that what he writes about Ruby on paper becomes reality. ‘Ruby speaks fluent French’ and hey presto she’s soon speaking fluent French.

The power to create his ideal woman soon starts to lose its appeal and Calvin realises that there’s a price to be paid for every change he makes to Ruby.

‘Ruby Sparks’ is written by Kazan (‘Revolutionary Road’ and ‘Fracture’). Kazan, who also plays, Ruby, claims to have been inspired by Woody Allen’s ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ and Harold Ramis’ ‘Groundhog Day’.

Kazan’s script is top class. The character of Ruby is presented in such an appealing way that it wasn’t surprising to find out how many men who have watched the film were enchanted by her.

Ruby Sparks is Kazan’s first outing as a writer but it’ll almost certainly not be her last.

The way she combines intelligent comedy with a flare for scenes of a more dramatic nature is wonderfully refreshing and the film’s script is perhaps one 2012’s most unique and entertaining.

One of the movie’s final scenes sees a wiser and more grounded Calvin, perform a reading from his new book, Ruby Sparks, in front of a large crowd.

Calvin’s recital is heartfelt and is performed brilliantly by Dano (‘Looper’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’).

While the film will be categorised as a romantic comedy it’s essentially an examination of the controlling, manipulative nature of the male ego.

It presents Calvin as a self-centred, egotistical narcissist whose idea of a loving relationship does not take into consideration the needs or the wants of the other person.

Calvin’s self-obsession becomes destructive when Ruby tells him that the only person he’s capable of being in a relationship with is himself.

Ultimately, the message that Ruby Sparks tries to convey is that the idea that the ‘perfect woman’ automatically leads to happiness is not or indeed cannot be true. Real life doesn’t work that way.

Kazan’s ability to get under the skin of what is the modern day relationship is interesting and insightful. It suggests that even if we were able to create our ideal partner and we were able to be with someone who shared all of our interests it would not necessarily make us happy.

Annette Benning (‘American Beauty’ and ‘Mars Attacks’) and Antonio Banderas (‘Desperado’ and ‘The Mask of Zoro’) play Calvin’s parents and their performances are bright, funny and energetic.

Hollywood stalwart Elliot Gould plays the part of Calvin’s psychiatrist and is instantly forgotten amongst the amazing performances from Kazan and Dano

Without spoiling the film, there are several plot holes which will become apparent to anyone who has watched the movie but with a slanted look at our own reality these transgressions are easily forgiven.

The film’s soundtrack is fantastic and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have produced one of the year’s most imaginative and good mood inducing films.

It’s Dayton’s and Faris’ first outing together since their 2006 surprise hit, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ but ‘Ruby Sparks’ is certainly a step up; it’s a much more complex examination of something as trivial as relationships.

‘Ruby Sparks’ is similar to Michel Gondry’s ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and stylistically, there’s a touch of Wes Anderson about it but these observations aside it doesn’t impact upon the movie’s unique feel.

VERDICT - 4/5 - The fact that ‘Ruby Sparks’ is the first movie to be penned by actress Zoe Kazan, who also plays Ruby, makes it all the more impressive. It’s slanted examination of how the controlling male ego deals with the concept of the ideal woman and investigates what happens when struggling novelist Calvin Weir Fields (Dano) is able to create his idea of a perfect woman on the pages of his new novel. It’s bright, energetic and hopelessly romantic.