Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the directors of 2006’s ‘Little Miss Sunshine‘, have finally returned to the big screen with ‘Ruby Sparks’, an intriguing, entertaining and downright charming little romantic comedy with a very creative and original premise.
For me, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ is an all-around perfect film; I wouldn’t change a thing about it. ‘Ruby Sparks’ tells the story of a genius author who debuted with a masterpiece before he was old enough to buy alcohol, but hasn’t written anything of note in the decade since. If the gap between ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and ‘Ruby Sparks’ was at all due to a fear of sophomore failure similar to that of the leading character in ‘Ruby Sparks’, then Dayton and Faris had absolutely nothing to worry about.
Paul Dano, who was in his early 20s when he appeared as the silent teen Dwayne in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, plays Calvin Weir-Fields. Calvin is a sort of tortured artist. Not that he peaked with his first novel, but he hasn’t matched that high quality since – and for that, the pressure is on. Everyone wants to know what he’ll write next. When will he write another American classic? What the world doesn’t know is that Calvin has a severe case of writer’s block, but all of that is about to change.
Have you ever had a dream that feels so real that it leaves you depressed after you wake? I’m not talking about a dream where you find a stack of money only to wake and not have it in your hands. I’m talking about a dream so strong that you carry it with you into the waking world. I have. And Calvin is about to have one too. Calvin’s loneliness is so heavy that it has crept into his subconscious. All it takes is one short and innocent hyper-realistic glimpse of his literal dream girl to throw him into a waking funk, a lovesick depression that he cannot shake. How can he be with the girl of his dreams when she doesn’t exist in the real world? Luckily, Calvin’s profession can help him with that. He writes about her incessantly, never leaving the confines of his typing room. He gives her the wild name that only a character of her make and model deserves: Ruby Sparks. He not only writes about her childhood, her past, her aspirations and her future, but he writes himself into the story, becoming the fictional man that Ruby wants to be with. In both the written and real worlds, Calvin needs Ruby and she needs him.
As Calvin gets deeper into his novel, strange things start to happen. Objects foreign to that what you would normally find in a single man’s apartment start appearing: a high-heel red velvet shoe, a lacy red bra, feminine hygiene products, etc. The only explanation he can fathom is that his odd little dog must have brought them in from the neighbor’s trash. But then something that he cannot explain happens. After a late night of writing, Calvin wakes to find the Ruby from his dreams and his novel (Zoe Kazan) I his real world. Through some inexplicable and magical means, Ruby has burst from Calvin’s mind and leaped out of the pages of his manuscript. She is exactly as he wrote her – beautiful, spontaneous, quirky and head-over-heels in love with him. Fear not, this isn’t some ‘Sixth Sense‘ thing where nobody else can see her. She’s real. And this is definitely not the type of movie where the character wakes up in the end and we see that he’s been in a coma the whole time. Ruby is absolutely real.
The premise, the cast, the directors and the original story make ‘Ruby Sparks’ a near-perfect film. Dano is great as always. Kazan not only does a fantastic job as Ruby, but she also wrote this brilliant screenplay. Who knew she had it in her? The supporting cast is fantastic too. Chris Messina steals just about every scene he’s in. The small roles played by Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas are hilarious. Hats off for Dayton and Faris for knocking it out of the park again. Please don’t make us wait so long next time.
‘Ruby Sparks’ is the best romantic comedy since ‘(500) Days of Summer‘. Imagine a blend of that film and ‘Eternal Sunshine‘. That’s what you get with ‘Ruby Sparks’, a unique and brilliant little flick that’s charming as hell.