It’d be hard to believe that anyone out there has never fantasized about the ideal man or woman they’d like to meet, date and possibly fall in love with. But have you ever wondered what would happen if you were suddenly able to make your soul mate appear, alive and kicking, through the power of imagination? That’s the basic premise at the core of Ruby Sparks, the long awaited return of filmmakers (and married couple) Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Their names might not promptly ring a bell but their debut, 2006 indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine, surely will. And you’re allowed to rejoice: this dynamic duo’s sophomore effort does not disappoint, even if Sunshine was arguably a tough act to follow.
Calvin (Paul Dano) is a high school dropout turned literary wunderkind after his bestselling; debut novel had critics almost hail him as the next J.D. Salinger. But he’s been stuck in the misery of a suffocating writer’s block ever since his breakthrough. Dumped by his only girlfriend and with no friends except his loving brother Harry (Chris Messina), Calvin lives like a misanthrope with his antisocial dog that squats like a female when peeing. Things seem headed for hopeless desperation until Calvin dreams about meeting a beautiful, charming girl named Ruby (Zoe Kazan). He wakes up with his creative juices flowing, sits down at his typewriter and doesn’t move until a copious stack of typed paper piles up on his desk.
Calvin is back in business and Ruby is his muse. It would all sound like a regular writer’s journey if one morning, the most unbelievable thing didn’t happen: Ruby is actually downstairs, in the flesh, making breakfast. Freak out mode copiously ensues and only when third parties confirm Ruby’s presence, including the hilarious confrontation with his brother, Calvin can stop worrying about the prospect of winding up in the loony bin. A hip music montage illustrating the honeymoon phase of these newly, unexpected, lovebirds is only logical at this point. But fear not: conflict is behind the corner and bound to hit our protagonist soon with often riotously funny consequences. Especially, since Calvin realizes that he can make Ruby do anything he wants by simply writing about it.
The film mostly works thanks to the filmmakers’ smart choice of not focusing on how and why the mysteriously extravagant event occurs. Their attention is devoted to the way it affects this troubled young man’s life. Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of legendary director Elia Kazan, not only stars in the title role: she also makes her screenwriting debut (although she’s already an established playwright). Her script offers food for thought, reflecting on how, in spite of creating our own soul mate, we’d still be due for drama because relationships are a bloody mess. Ruby Sparks is the hip, must-see, date-movie of this autumn, with great supporting turns from Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas while Zoe Kazan and boyfriend Paul Dano show off their real life chemistry on screen.