There are two things I love more than almost anything else: gingers and writing. Zoe Kazan, who starts as the title character in this film, managed to marry my two favorite things. Believe you me, if I could conjure a beautiful red-head with pale skin and freckles that was in love with me into existence, I wouldve done so a long time ago.
I’ve been beyond excited for this movie since I first saw the trailer several months ago, and it was agony not knowing when my theater (or any freaking theater in the state) was going to get it due to the limited release. Finally, I discovered yesterday to my eternal joy that my theater was not only getting it, but doing a midnight release. Callously tossing aside my plans to see The Bourne Legacy, I spent all day in rapt anticipation for 12:01 AM to roll around.
Could Ruby Sparks possibly meet my expectations? Well, read on to find out!
Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Release Date: July 25th (limited)
Calvin (Paul Dano) is a published writer who has a big problem: writer’s block. His therapist gives him a simple little writing assignment, which leads to a dream about a red-headed girl named Ruby Sparks (Kazan), which leads to him writing up a storm about the girl. Then, one day, SHAZAM!, she’s real. Not a hallucination, not a sentient tumor, Calvin full-on conjures a flesh-and-blood manic pixie dream girl into existence. Things are pretty great, and then Calvin’s brother Harry (Chris Messina) prods him to find out if he can continue to control her via his writing. After a fairly innocuous experiment, Calvin locks up the script, vowing never to play God again. Things are fine until they aren’t, and the temptation to try and fix things using his omnipotent powers over Ruby becomes too great and Calvin finds himself digging a deeper and deeper hole in his relationship with his literal dream girl.
The cast of this film is truly fantastic. The main characters number two, maybe three if you count Calvin’s brother, but the supporting cast is full of delightfully familiar faces. Dano and Kazan’s real-life romance makes their relationship more believable than your standard on-screen couple, while Messina’s Harry is a great guy who’s always looking out for his little brother that finds himself thrust into an unlikely situation as the only person besides Calvin who knows he created Ruby. As far as the supporting cast, as I said, it’s wonderful. Annette Bening plays the boys’ hippie mother and Antonio Banderas plays her second husband, a cool, driftwood furniture maker you’d just love to hang out with. Elliott Gould appears as Calvin’s therapist and I was quite impressed with his believable interpretation. Steve Coogan is on point as always as the writer who ‘discovered’ Calvin ten years before, Aasif Mandvi plays Calvin’s agent, Alia Shawkat is a big fan who wants to have midday sex with him, and Deborah Ann Woll shows up as Lila, Calvin’s ex. Each time one of these people popped up, the smile on my face got even bigger.
Zoe Kazan’s script was great. It was full of laughs, knew how to tug on the right heart strings, and surprisingly deep. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris took that script and made it into one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. Initially light-hearted and fun, the movie took a dark turn once their relationship hit muddy waters, and it had one of the darkest, borderline terrifying climaxes I’ve ever seen in a romantic comedy in the best way possible. Without giving anything away, the script was smartly taken to its logical conclusion.
The soundtrack was awesome as well. Most of the score was classical music and there was no point where I felt that the music didn’t fit the scene.
In the end, I freaking loved this movie. It, at the very least, met my expectations if not exceeded them. It was like 500 Days of Summer sprinkled with some Butterfly Effect. That may sound ludicrous, but you’ll see what I mean. Kazan and Dano sparkle together on screen, and they are supported by a small but brutally effective cast. It’s a smart movie, so be warned. But if you’re looking for the year’s smartest and most rewarding romantic comedy, this is it.
Also, if I’m 29 and still haven’t birthed a manic pixie dream ginger into the world with my writing, I don’t know what I’ll do. Probably cry. A lot.