Friday, August 10
REVIEW: Ruby Sparks
Directed by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Fantasy Comedy Drama
1 hour 43 minutes
From Fox Searchlight
I wanted to like it, I really did. I quite like love stories with a bit of whimsy interwoven. I was encouraged by the previews. I even read a couple of pretty favorable reviews. Alas, it was not to be. While I give it two stars, it would be a low two for me.
I think the story sounds charming enough. A novelist, with a nod, it seems, to J. D. Salinger, has an early success and then nothing. A shrink encourages him to write again and once he does, he creates a female character (yes, yes, it's Ruby) who comes to life and becomes his girlfriend. Whatever he writes about her is what she does. Well, um, sort of and certainly here is where some of the plausibility takes an exit. Maybe we're not supposed to pay attention to such things in fantasy. The film might have been a little better, too, had they not tacked on the final scene, a little too hokey romantic comedy for my tastes.
My main whine is the star, Paul Dano. I have enjoyed his work in other films but I guess I've just never seen him in a leading role and I found him to be as boring as tying your shoes. It's just not much fun watching a gloomy lead character. Dano no doubt excelled in Facial Expressions 101 but there is no fire in his acting. Well, um, ok, I saw fire in just one scene, the best one in the film, when he confronts his ex. Why couldn't there have been more of this?
I was only somewhat aware of Zoe Kazan's work and imdb informs me I have seen several of her films. I much preferred her character to his and appreciated her acting. She is pedigreed by virtue of being the granddaughter of movie director Elia Kazan. She also wrote this screenplay, her first. I was not so impressed with this endeavor. Some scenes were sensible on their own, but when all pieced together, I found myself saying... really? At the end Dano's character says something does not necessarily making sense. Hmmmm, that's how I feel about this film. Kazan also co-produced with Dano (and another) and in real life, they are a couple.
I cannot imagine what induced Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas to accept minor parent roles. They have one fairly brief sequence halfway through the film and then something even slighter at the end. Maybe they're friends with Dano and/or Kazan and this is a favor. I could understand that, but not much of anything else.
I liked Chris Messina as Dano's brother but had to overlook the fact that there was not a scintilla of similarity in their looks.
This is only the second film for co-directors Dayton and Faris, the first being the mega-hit Little Miss Sunshine. I tell you this but it would be highly misleading to suggest Ruby Sparks is anywhere near that level.
NEXT POSTING: Ghosts at Westwood