Reviewed by Michael Hickerson (Slice of SciFi Editor)
Lonely novelist Calvin is suffering from writer’s block and a lack of romance in his life. His previous (and only) girlfriend left him a few weeks after his father passed away and his attempts to reconnect with the world aren’t working that well, much to his therapist and family’s chagrin.
Calvin begins to have vague dreams about a girl, which he begins to write down in the form of new story. Calvin begins to find evidence of a girlfriend appearing around his apartment–from a woman’s razor and shaving cream in his cabinet to a bra in between his sofa cushions. Then, one morning, Calvin awakes to find the dream girl, Ruby, in his apartment. Once he verifies that others can see Ruby, the two begin a relationship (or continue it as the case may be).
Written by and starring Zoe Kazan (who based the story on the myth of Pygamalion) in the title role, Ruby Sparks is an unconventional, quirky romantic comedy that should appeal to both sexes. While the story hits some of the high points of the typical romantic comedy, the questions raised by how Ruby came into existence and how much control Calvin has over her are intriguing. The romance feels entirely authentic and the comedy comes from characters within the film. One early scene finds Calvin and his brother wondering just how much input Calvin has into who Ruby is and her mannerisms. The initial scene is played for laughs but it also foreshadows some things in the third act of the film as Calvin begins to fear he’s losing Ruby and the script examines just how far he’ll go to keep her.
Real-life couple Kazan and Paul Dano have an undeniable chemistry together on-screen. Kazan’s work reminds me a bit of the work done each week by Zoey Deschnael on Fox’s The New Girl, with Ruby registering high on the “adorkable” scale.
Wisely the film doesn’t delve too much into how Ruby came into being or if she really exists. In many ways, this element of the film reminded me of Charles De Lint’s superlative Newford series of novels in which magical things happen and the characters accept it in order to explore some deeper and more interesting ideas and issues.
Of course, being from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, you’d expect a bit of quirkiness to the characters. Thankfully, the script balance the quirky side of the characters and the situation with a bit of reality and I found myself enjoying the directors’ sophomore effort far more than I did Little Miss Sunshine. I don’t believe Ruby Sparks will be as embraced by the mainstream Hollywood crowd as Sunshine was (with the film garnering multiple Oscar nods), but it’s a better film. It may not be a film that many find in theaters (though if you can see it there, it’s worth the time and money), but I have a feeling this one will find an audience on DVD and cable in the months and years to come.