In the wake of Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris where always going to be under great audience scrutiny. Well with a great premise and script from writer/star Zoe Kazan, and bringing Paul Dano into the spotlight they’ve taken something fantastical and fleshed out into a tangible reality. A young troubled virtuosic novelist (Paul Dano) struggling with tackling his second novel finds inspiration and love when a female character he writes named Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) is conjured into existence.
Writer Zoe Kazan presents Calvin’s authorial perspective and the subsequent idealised and constructed characters, and once the scene is set starts tearing away the fabric of his perception. Kazan uses Ruby to call out this unreliable narrator and the perfect projection of his idealised self-image when she begins to interact with him in his real world.
The entire film hinges on Calvin being endearing and likeable despite his glaring flaws. Paul Dano is pitch perfect as Calvin. He cohabitates Calvin’s mania between crippling vulnerability and a fiery rage filled tendency to control. Zoe Kazan's Ruby begins as that frustrating cute ideal 'The New Girl' projection of femininity. The highlight of Kazan’s performance is her character’s change from fictional abstract fiction to real woman.
The supporting cast perfectly contrast the polarity in Calvin’s personality. Elliot Gould’s calming, nurturing presence as Calvin’s therapist etches out his loner isolation and his family’s warmth, care and concern (Chis Messina, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas) show that it’s self-imposed.
The minor problems lie in the pacing in the story and the divisive clean ending to what is a deeply ambivalent examination of a character.
Ruby Sparks is solid second album for Dayton and Faris and a welcome feminine critique of the male author god complex by Kazan - slightly undone by the weak ending.
[rating=3] and a half
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Written by: Zoe Kazan
Starring: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Antonio Banderas Chris Messina, Elliot Gould, Steve Coogan and Annette Bening
Ruby Sparks is released on the 20th of September 2012 in Australia