September 28, 2012
Reality and fantasy in love
Smart, charming, and refreshing, Ruby Sparks is bound to become an indie classic.
This film depicts the sensibilities of the creative process. It kindles a mysteriously bold color that organically spreads around a blank space—unable to stop until it reaches the limits of its inspiration.
After watching this engaging, off-kilter love story, I readily wondered how its writer managed to pitch such a very challenging concept, which is something that studios and producers often find as disappointingly absurd under different circumstances. After researching, I realized that a 29-year-old Zoe Kazan worked on it as a writer and actress playing the titular role.
Although it was my first time to encounter her name, it turns out that this up-and-coming scriptwriter, playwright, and actress actually has a considerable grip in the industry being the granddaughter of the two-time Oscar-winning director Elia Kazan, the man who helmed A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront. Adding to this is the fact that both her parents are Oscar-nominated writers. Her mother Robin Swicord worked on the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Matilda, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Little Women. Her father Nicholas Kazan penned Reversal of Fortune, Matilda, Bicentennial Man, and At Close Range.
This motion picture has "love and romance" written all over it. Beyond its concept and story that clearly dwells into the themes of love, whimsy, and creativity, other crucial aspects of the production also validate this. Behind the camera, real-life couple Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the filmmakers behind Little Miss Sunshine, directed it as their sophomore feature. On camera, real-life couple Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan star as the main characters in the story.
Ruby Sparks manages to become the sweet little modern fable it aims to be. For a young writer making her debut piece, her flight of imagination defines what a "new blood" should be. Her bold and daring material effectively blurs the lines of fiction and reality.
This is a rare type of romantic comedy that is not just witty and funny, it ultimately takes risks. The story promotes many charming eccentricities by using fantasy as part of reality and vice versa. It maintains its much-needed psychological heft in order to make dreams and reality overlap. It shows how a sense of wonder and magic is ought to be enjoyed while its there.
There are many expected and unexpected ways to approach this thought-provoking presentation. Depending on one's mood, feelings, perspective, and experiences, a particular audience can simply see it as "a mind-bending love story of a man manifesting the girl of his dreams." Another can interpret it as "a quirky reminder that relationships are never easy, even if people think they have complete control over them." Some may see it as "a loose adaptation of the Pygmalion tale from the Greek mythology." Others may dwell into "how the element of surrender becomes an essential sacrifice for loving somebody." Feminist viewers may focus on "how the story addresses female submissiveness, man's ego, and the author-god complex."
This film works like a Woody Allen comedy, but it certainly deserves to be judged on its own merits. Expertly walking the line between the artsy and the mainstream, this sophisticated genre offering is definitely smarter than it seems. It is both a serious and a playful foray into the domain of romantic love and literary invention and the "what if" moments that concern people living in a vulnerable and fanciful sphere. It is also worth noting that its genuine sweetness never turns overly saccharine. At the same time, it has scenes that subtly venture into the darker and more unsettling territory.
This intricate piece requires an outrageous suspension of disbelief from the audience to make things work. It successfully does so through the storytelling choices of its directors and the disarmingly brilliant acting from its lead and supporting characters. Dano impressively carries an unflattering depiction of the beta-male possessiveness and a writer's temperament. Kazan renders an emotionally charged performance as a mysterious figment of a novelist's imagination. These two's intimate chemistry becomes the driving force of the narrative.
Ruby Sparks combines storytelling conventions with unpredictable components in order to wield both realism and fantasy on screen. In doing so, it aptly presents an incisive and funny look at the messy complications of an otherwise picture-perfect relationship. However, the film is slightly undone by an ending that is not as strong as it could have been—if not for such an overly tidy and easy Hollywood-style resolution. At some point, the story falls prey to the sort of things the rest of the film subverts in its pursuit for an elusive romantic paradigm. Nevertheless, the overall output is still able to throw enough curveballs to challenge the generic aspects of the genre.
As a beguiling picture that breathes life into a high-concept venture, this zany offering generates a deep and honest escape that novelists, romanticists, artists, book lovers, and cinephiles can relate to. It also works as an entertaining and offbeat character study that can satisfy viewers who are looking for something clever and touching to watch.
Ruby Sparks is now showing in theaters nationwide.
About the writer: Exposed in the different facets of media including film, TV, advertising, theater, radio, print, web, and events, Rianne is an awarded filmmaker whose film works go beyond her productions. As a young and active soul, she immerses herself in various disciplines as a director, writer, educator, and production artistdriving her to further learn and experience love and life.