It’s not very often when you get a film that is written by its star. It’s even more rare when that situation happens with an actress. However, if Ruby Sparks is what you should come to expect from such a scenario, actresses should be given this opportunity a lot more often. Zoe Kazan creates one of the better romantic dramedies in recent memory both on the page and in front of the screen.
Ruby Sparks follows Calvin (played by Paul Dano), a novelist whose quick rise to superstardom has taken a toll on him. One day he finally begins writing his next novel about a romance between a character like him and a dream girl. However, when he wakes up the next day he discovers that the dream girl he has created has come to life. As his relationship with the girl (played by Zoe Kazan) begins to take on a more realistic nature, Calvin must decide if he should use his power of writing to change the nature of the girl. The film is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (the directing team behind Little Miss Sunshine) and is written by Zoe Kazan.
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Ferris clearly know what they are doing when it comes to directing dramedies. They had great success with Little Miss Sunshine. They do a great job here as well, but let’s get serious; this film (like Little Miss Sunshine) mostly succeeds on a strong script. Zoe Kazan does a great job of handling a normally stale gene (romantic comedy). Her script doesn’t go anywhere new, but it succeeds for many reasons.
Most apparent of these reasons is that it creates a lot of complex characters (something that is usually missing from your typical romantic comedy fare). There is a lot of time dedicated to building the lead character of Calvin, and the film gets the most out of Paul Dano’s surprisingly charming performance. The film also does a great job of actually giving time to supporting characters like Chris Messina’s Harry (speaking of Chris Messina, is he in every film this year or what?). However, no character in this film is more complex than Ruby Sparks, and that is why this film is so interesting. The film takes an interesting concept (of having a literary character come to life) and really goes places with it. Does real life take a toll on such a character? Does such a character evolve or stay the same forever? These questions are actually explored in great detail.
While it would seem to be an odd choice to cast herself in the film’s most important role, Zoe Kazan does a great job as Ruby Sparks. She has the manic pixie dream girl character down pat, but she is able to handle the more dramatic moments of the film well too.
It is also worthy commending Kazan for actually going to some dark places with the script instead of going with the usual lighter tone of the romantic comedy genre. She actually makes you scream for the happy ending that the film ultimately delivers.
A fantastic script and a very good performance from Zoe Kazan make Ruby Sparks a real winner.