Ruby Sparks
dir Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
scr Zoe Kazan
prd Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
with Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliott Gould, Aasif Mandvi, Steve Coogan, Toni Trucks, Deborah Ann Woll, Alia Shawkat, Jane Anne Thomas
release US 25.Jul.12, UK 12.Oct.12
12/US 1h44
Ruby Sparks
An ideal girlfriend: Kazan and Dano

messina bening banderas
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Ruby Sparks After six years, the directors of Little Miss Sunshine are back with another offbeat comedy-drama that challenges preconceptions. It's an intriguing exploration of the writing process, indulging in some magical realism as it grapples with the nature of desire and relationships.

Once-promising writer Calvin (Dano) has struggled for 10 years to follow-up the iconic novel he wrote at 19. Despite coaxing from his agent (Mandvi) and therapist (Gould), and teasing from his brother (Messina), the paper in his manual typewriter remains stubbornly blank. So he decides to write about the girl (Kazan) from his dreams. Then a few days later he discovers Ruby in his kitchen. He's sure he's going mad, but others see her too, so he decides to go with it, even introducing her to his hippie mother and stepdad (Bening and Banderas).

Much of this is played for laughs, with moments of goofy slapstick and raucous silliness. But things take a darker turn when Ruby starts to develop her own interests and Calvin decides to write her back into control. The obvious result is that the more pliant Ruby ceases to be he woman of Calvin's dreams: relationships are built on trust, give and take, and unpredictability, right? And on another level, the creative process only works when you don't try to push it down the desired path.

At the centre, Dano is charmingly offhanded, generating sparky chemistry with real-life partner Kazan, who's sometimes rather too kooky. But we root for the relationship even if it seems absurd to do so. Meanwhile, Messina adds a bracing voice of reason as the only person in on Calvin's secret; he's clearly jealous of his brother's power over Ruby, as opposed to his inability to understand his wife (Trucks). And Bening and Banderas are hilarious in their brief scenes.

It's fairly obvious where this is heading, mainly because there aren't many options available. Essentially, this is a fairly normal romantic-comedy that has an offbeat twist in the premise and some unusually dark moments along the way (Calvin's big confrontation with Ruby is very hard to watch). So it's not surprising that the ending is a bit warm and cute, designed to send us out with a smile on our faces.

cert 15 themes, language 4.Oct.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall