If only I could relate to this image.
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Review by The Isolated Moviegoer:

Six years have passed since Jonathan Dayton’s and Valerie Faris’ Little Miss Sunshine charmed its way to a pair of Oscars and a Best Picture nomination.  For Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), the lead of their new film Ruby Sparks, a decade has elapsed since his debut novel made him a literary sensation at the age of 18.  In the intervening time, he’s published a novella and a few short stories, but the industry and public demand a full-length work and, well, that’s easier said than done.

Mired in writer’s block and searching for answers with the help of his therapist (Elliott Gould), Calvin trudges on.  At least he has his dreams, in which an ideal woman by the name of Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) gives his life purpose.  Suddenly inspired, Calvin begins to type up their fictional relationship.  He stays up late, aware that he may at last have a worthy second novel, but mostly writes to spend time with his imaginary girlfriend.

The best part of waking up…
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

And then one morning, he wakes up and Ruby is in his house, exactly as he’s created her.  Convinced that he’s finally gone insane, he’s shocked and elated to find that everyone else can see her, too.  So begins a magical romance of refined 20something quirkiness.  Ruby is indeed Calvin’s dream girl, too good to be true but somehow in the flesh and in love with him.  The same may be said of Kazan, an adorable sprite with a rosy-cheeked face straight out of a Rankin/Bass Christmas special.  Bubbling with appeal, her Ruby encompasses the right balance of cuteness and brains, as does Kazan’s marvelous debut script.  Following Calvin’s lead, the bulk of Ruby Sparks is spent in wide-eyed, open-mouthed awe of her copious skills, sharing in the joyous fascination of a truly great creation.

Shockingly good, indeed.
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

As it sadly must, however, the honeymoon ends (at least plot-wise).  Calvin gradually loses appreciation for his gem of a lady and the enchantment begins to subside.  Ruby suggests spending some time apart, and as she builds a life outside of their relationship, Calvin panics.  Fearful of losing her, he returns to the manuscript from which she sprang, but is wholly unprepared for the consequences of his actions.

Birkenstocked in the Park.
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

In its unexplainable convergence of fantasy and reality, Ruby Sparks carries on the tradition of Stranger Than Fiction and The Purple Rose of Cairo, but in a more complex and fully realized manner.  Through Calvin’s exorcism of writer’s block and girl problems, the film says a great deal about relationships, personal accountability, and writing itself, positing Kazan as not only a voice of her generation, but of all who have loved and lost.

Full of rich humor and sharp comedic performances (including unexpectedly bizarre turns from Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas), nearly everything works.  As with Moonrise Kingdom and Bernie, Ruby Sparks is a film of such immense joy that it’s difficult to find fault with the results.  It’s up there with the year’s best and shouldn’t be missed.

Grade: A

Rated R for language including some sexual references, and for some drug use.

Ruby Sparks opens on Friday, August 17 at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.

For more film reviews, visit The Isolated Moviegoer.

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One Comment

  1. can’t wait to see this!

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