Posted by Alia Haddad on August 2, 2012 at 6:53 am
I had very high hopes for Ruby Sparks, the Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris co-directed indie romantic dramedy about a celebrated yet afflicted young author who writes an idealized fictitious female character who then comes to life. I mean, after The Playlist gave it a rather rave review, is it wrong to say that I expected a lot. And perhaps that was my issue: maybe I just wanted too much from this movie. Maybe I thought that first time writer (and one of the stars of the movie) Zoe Kazan had successfully written a movie that would just suit me. Maybe I thought that because Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan– the two romantic leads– were dating in real life, I would effortlessly fall in love with their on-screen characters and relationship. Whatever the case, I can confidently say that while Ruby Sparks proved entertaining, it would never qualify as a movie I loved. It was cute– the term that befalls so many would-be-films– but not great.
What was the main thing plaguing Ruby Sparks? Well it definitely wasn’t the cast. As expected Dano and Kazan shined on screen. Their chemistry, characters and performances were great. While I find myself a usual Dano fan, Kazan surprised me in her range and depth of emotions she portrayed. This was especially important when elements of the movie turned silly or very serious depending on the way you took them. What could have come off as either terrible acting or incredibly cheeky, Kazan made appear genuine and almost innocent. The same lovability held true for the supporting cast made up of Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, and Chris Messina. I mean who doesn’t love Annette Bening?!
The dialogue was realistic and entertaining. Often, I find dialogue to sound contrived, and thus, frustrating to listen to– often an issue with first-time writers– but not so in Ruby Sparks. I found myself giggling at the thought of having to explain to someone in all sincerity that the fictional girl I made up and had been writing about has since come to (and into my) life.
Also, don’t even get me started on location. There is nary a movie that has been made that is filmed and takes place in eastern Los Angles that I haven’t gravitated to, and I find the same to be true of Ruby Sparks. Its depictions of Silverlake and Los Feliz, my hometowns in Los Angeles, were lovely and nostalgic and enhanced the quality of the film.
So what was wrong about this movie? What degraded it from the instant indie-classic The Playlist tried to maintain it had the potential to become. Well, the overall story was kind of creepy. This was especially true in the ending. I left the theater not feeling light-hearted and joyous, but instead kind of repulsed. And while I’m not sure personal distaste can usually take away from the overall quality of the film, I will venture to say that this uneasy, icky feeling was probably not what Kazan, Dayton, and Faris were intending for the viewer to feel. Nevertheless, that’s what I felt, and for that reason, I just can’t regard this as a great, breaking-boundaries kind of film. Cute? Yes. But amazing? Unfortunately, Ruby Sparks is just not quite there.