DVD review: Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks

(M) ****

Director: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Cast: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas.

PEOPLE, especially young people, fall in love with fictional characters all the time - just look at the whole Team Edward/Team Jacob rubbish that the Twilight series spawned.

But what about if you could create your own fictional character to go head over heels for - not in a Weird Science kind of way, but more of a "tumbled off the page and into your arms" type of deal?

That's the conceit at the centre of this clever romantic-comedy, where struggling-yet-gifted novelist Calvin (Dano) begins writing about his dream woman (Kazan), only to discover she has mysteriously materialised in his life.

You might not want to think too hard about what would likely happen after the credits have rolled, but getting there is at least fun.

Dano and Kazan have excellent chemistry (which is good as they're a real-life couple) and their co-stars chime in well. Coogan is an enjoyable cad, while Bening and Banderas seem to enjoy playing Calvin's mother and step-dad.

Kazan not only brings energy to her role as the titular Ruby Sparks but she also wrote the script, and it's a great one, with its key plot point managing to overcome the pro forma nature of its characters, ie. her manic pixie dream girl and Dano's neurotic frustrated loner writer.

The script is also strong enough to avoid backing itself into a corner where the premise is strong but the rest of the film just peters out, which it looks like it might be doing as it progresses. Thankfully its resolution is almost as rewarding as its core idea, as the film detours into some unexpectedly dark places in the final act.

The shift in tone is well-handled by directors Dayton and Faris, the husband-wife team behind the excellent Little Miss Sunshine.

Ruby Sparks is not as good as that surprise hit, partly because it lacks the emotional heart and the layered characters.

That lack of heart makes way for a rather cynical look at relationships. While the film espouses ideals such as "love is magic" and "love is transformative", there is a deeper, darker undercurrent at work that notes how even the seemingly ideal relationships can fade or hit troubled patches, and how trying to change your partner can be both futile and dangerous.

It's a refreshing take for a rom-com, and when you add in a healthy dose of humour, it makes for an enjoyable and intelligent treat.

Real-life couple Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano naturally make a great on-screen couple.

Real-life couple Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano naturally make a great on-screen couple.


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