Well, it was a crazy day at the Los Angeles Film Festival and while the food options limited me to standing in the theater lobby eating a expensive concessions hotdog, it was still an amazing experience where I not only got to see the writer of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, I also got to see a sneak preview of a “secret screening”. The directors approached the microphone, continuing to leave the crowd in the dark about what was to be shown (although the man did first say, “I’m so sorry this isn’t the new Batman movie.”). These directors, however, have had their success with Little Miss Sunshine and now, at this “secret screening” they were showing us a month-early preview of the latest, Ruby Sparks. Ruby Sparks follows a struggling writer named Tom who begins to write about the girl of his dreams, Ruby Sparks. One day, however, Tom wakes up, only to find a materialized, real life Ruby in his house.
I think one of the best things this film has going for it is its charming cast of characters with wonderful actors
playing them. Front and center is the awkwardly charming Paul Dano who delivers a great performance as a seemingly one-hit wonder novelist Tom. While his comedic timing works well, what really works well is the utter charm Dano delivers into this role and the way he’s able to simply convey emotion by facial expressions. While he does have his share of great talking scenes, there are moments in this film where his face nearly says it all, especially in a very serious scene towards the end that could’ve been ridiculous, but, partly helped by Dano’s wordless acting in it, is one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Beyond that you have writer/star, and Dano’s off-screen love, Zoe Kazan as Ruby Sparks, the bubbly and sweet girl from Tom’s writing. She has a no holds barred type of role which allows her to convey a lot of believable range throughout the film as Ruby Sparks herself changes instantly with Tom’s writing. Add in some fun appearances from Antonio Banderas and Annette Bening and a good performance from Chris Messina as Tom’s brother and you’ve got a delightfully solid cast carrying Ruby Sparks.
Channeling the cheery and lively tone of Midnight In Paris, Ruby Sparks shares a similarly fantastical theme, and has a lot of fun scenes going through rules of its fantasy and how it works. While it does take its time to do that, Ruby Sparks also surprisingly fleshes out its characters, although it’s mostly Tom who’s the most developed character by the end of the film. The film spends its first half introducing us to Tom and then going through its premise with the creation of Ruby and so on and that proves to be the best parts of the film. This is because the film is a fun and fantastical film while also showing us good characters and well-written material. However, the film, around the halfway point, decides to mainly become about the relationship, struggling to find ways to continue its fantasy elements and wrap it up in a satisfying way. This struggle, however, pays off, and Ruby Sparks, as a whole, is a satisfying and charming film which is part fantasy and part romance, all parts sweet and wholesome.
With well-written dialogue and good direction, I simply find Ruby Sparks a hard film to dislike. It’s got charming stars and makes for a great 104 minutes of well-done escapism entertainment. It’s definitely one of the best independent films of the year so far. While it’s labeled independent, though, I imagine Ruby Sparks is a very accessible film for most mainstream audiences. Its bizarre premise might be one that most people aren’t used to in their romantic comedies, but it gives off a certain charm that allows to movie to never be boring or slow. In fact, it builds to some surprisingly emotional moments near the end.
In the end, my complaint about this film is that is does take a bit of a jarring break from the fantasy about halfway through. However, I’d still say it’s a great film that I definitely recommend checking out when it arrives in theaters. When so many big summer movies aim to draw in the audiences with president vampire hunters and superheroes, Ruby Sparks might just be a refreshing antidote to all of the explosions.
FINAL RATING: ★★★★★★★★☆ (8.5/10 stars)
FINAL SAY: Charmingly acted and well written, Ruby Sparks is a fantastical and entertaining, well-directed film.
Ruby Sparks will be in limited release on July 25.