I don’t think at this point it is that hard to believe that Little Miss Sunshine came out six years ago. That was the last time we heard from the married directing duo of Valerie Farris and Jonathan Dayton. They once again try to capture lightning in a bottle with a darling little indie to entertain the masses. I doubt this will have the commercial success of their first film but it will be a good movie for couples to go see. Ruby Sparks is the second feature film for Farris and Dayton and despite a glaring lack of explanation it is a cute movie to go see.
Written by the movies female lead, Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks is the story of a young writer, Calvin, who peaked as a teenager writing a modern American classic. But now 10 years later has yet to put anything else out. Calvin is played by Paul Dano who previously worked with Farris and Dayton on Little Miss Sunshine. It seems appropriate that the directing team featured a story on a person with writer’s block, since it has been six years since they have done anything. So once again they have teamed up with FOX Searchlight hoping for similar success to their first movie.
But where Little Miss Sunshine focused on an eccentric family of loveable losers, this movie mostly focuses on one young couple in love. While that is not a bad thing, there was just more to grab onto in their first movie. If you didn’t particularly enjoy one story line you wouldn’t have to wait long for another and the family motif really helped tie it all together. It also featured a lot of big names to draw the viewer in. Including the extremely lucky casting of Steve Carrel who while filming was still not widely known because “The Office” had not aired yet.
I had a chance to talk to the stars and directors of the Ruby Sparks. Click below to listen to what they had to say about getting this project started, how they have dealt with the success of Little Miss Sunshine and where they go next.
In this movie Calvin’s dream girl is actually from his own mind as she is the female lead in his newest novel and has now magically come to life. There is no explanation why and any attempt to do so, is quickly side stepped. Even Ted manufactured a way for a teddy bear to come to life, the best explanation we got was possibly a magic typewriter, but you can never quite be sure. Anyway Calvin believes he has created the perfect woman and for his hipster little self they seem to blend perfectly together.
But having only ever been in one real relationship he doesn’t quite understand that any relationship needs work, even one with the perfect girl. The theme here is fantastic and I think some of the highlights of the movie may be when Calvin uses his magic typewriter to change the girl to fit his needs. While they used the themes to bring out some of the funnier moments in the movie, the main use of the alterations was an ethical look at the amount of control one person may have over another. Kazan is at her best jumping from extreme to extreme and Dano also rises to the occasion when dealing with the alterations to his creation.
Kazan and Dano both did fine jobs with the lighter moments of the movie, but Dano’s performance stayed consistently solid as the movie progressed well past the climax of the movie. There was a host of fantastic supporting actors surrounding the two young stars which helped the story progress with an especially wonderful performances from Antonio Banderas as the eccentric boyfriend to Calvin’s mom who was also played wonderfully by Annette Bening. Steve Coogan also did amazing work in several scenes as the sleezy book executive looking to capitalize on Calvin’s success.
Do we ever find out how a fictional character that appeared out of no where has her own place in Los Angeles? No. But I imagine Kazan is hoping that you will fall in love with the story so much that you will be able to look past these plot holes. There is a wonderful story in here about what it takes to be in a relationship once the honeymoon bliss wears off and Ruby Sparks should be the perfect alternative to the major blockbusters that are out there now.