By Wilson Morales
From ‘Frankenstein’ to ‘Pinocchio’ to ‘Weird Science’, we’ve seen plenty of films where creation of a being is used to replace loneliness and discomfort. While no one will ever mistake Zoe Kazan for Kelly LeBrock of ‘Weird Science,’ the former does posses a certain wit and charm in ‘Ruby Sparks’ that will delight those who are looking for a good lighthearted romantic comedy. Directed by the folks (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris) who made the Oscar nominated and pleasurable gem ‘Little Sunshine,’ the film is based on an original screenplay from Kazan, who also co-stars with her real-life boyfriend Paul Dano.
Dano plays Calvin Weir-Fields, an introvert LA novelist who can’t seem to come out of his shell and lead a normal life. Although he’s in his 20s, Calvin’s been famous since he wrote a book back in early youth. With the exception of his brother Harry (Chris Messina), Calvin’s only other person he mostly communicates with is his therapist (played by Elliott Gould). When struggling to write a follow-up novel, he creates a woman who’s filled with zest and compassion. Describing her as red hair with a cute smile, he names the character, Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan).
When Harry chastises Calvin for getting too emotional over a fictitious person, little does either of them realize that things will never be the same when all of a sudden Ruby actually comes to life. Thinking he’s totally lost his sense of reality, Calvin goes outside his house and start dating when Ruby follows him and notices that people can see and touch this person he created on paper. Reluctant to believe this unnatural occurrence, but flowing with it, Calvin is cloud nine now that he has the woman of his dreams in his presence. Ruby is as sound as any other living person and her memory is filled with everything that Calvin had initially written. She’s bubbly, personable, and very sexual. She’s totally unaware that she’s Calvin’s creation. When Harry suggests that Calvin take advantage of his writing skills, Calvin rebuffs at the idea of ruining what’s the best thing in his life.
Having met Calvin’s free-spirited parents, (Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas), Ruby wants to do more in life than be dependent on Calvin, which is not what he expected. Sensing that Ruby is starting to become more than he created, Calvin’s control of her life begins to bring the worst of him. Will his love for her be his downfall or salvation?
Kazan has written herself an amusing tale about love that works due to her appealing performance as well as her chemistry with Dano. They seem fit for the roles. In Ruby, Kazan plays this magical fantasy that sparks the room she’s in. She plays it effortlessly and with lots of enthusiasm. In most of his films (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood, Cowboys & Aliens), the characters Dano plays always seem resigned, so this must have been a natural role for him to do. Messina plays the voice of reason with comical ease.
While it’s nice to see Bening and Banderas be lively and comical in their performances, their roles weren’t necessary in the film. It’s as if this was initially a stage play that got expanded into a film and more characters were needed. The film is actually touching until we get to the third act and Kazan’s script starts to veer into another movie. The tone is feels dark in contrast to two-thirds of the film, and the ending seems as if it were implied by her producers to please her audience. Overall, if you have a little imagination and want to be entertained, ‘Ruby Sparks’ is a sweet, charming love story that works with lively performances.