Ginger and Rosa Review (Paolo Kagaoan)

Ginger-and-Rosa-2

Ginger and Rosa (2012)

Starring Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening, Jodhi May, and introducing Alice Englert

Directed by Sally Potter

Ginger and Rosa, two names that evoke the colour red and its rage and romance , are the names of two fictional young women in 1960’s London (played by Fanning and Englert, respectively). Nuclear bombs aside, the film boasts the happiest, most bittersweet first ten minutes of recent theatrical releases. We, the audience, can’t help but get suckered in while watching the two play, making a working class, rubble-laden, paint-chipped London their playground as if they are still children. The two young, bright leads delicately transition between purity and the separate explorations that they will take. And Potter’s direction in these scenes is commendably painterly, this quality clearer here than in her earlier, more prosaic efforts in Thriller and Orlando. This kind of pacing and storytelling may not always be able to sustain itself throughout the film but it can still highlight key emotional moments.

Ginger and Rosa is another depiction of that postwar era that English-speaking directors have captured for the past six years or so. But the word ‘another’ feels like a disservice against the film when it is not. Potter’s film adds layers to this wary, stumbling renaissance by leaving reminders of the bomb. That same bomb that Betty Draper talks about to her psychiatrist, speculating that the latter’s other patients are equally worried about it. The bomb – shown here in what I assume is in colourful yet grainy 8mm, obliterates a Japanese city. It’s the bomb that Ginger starts to read about in magazines, wondering whether those around her are equally agitated about these nuclear weapons. Her main influence is ‘her Roland’ (Nivola), a man who doesn’t want to be called her father because of its supposed bourgeois implications. Other influences include those played by Hendricks, Spall, Platt, and Bening, great character actors who imbue the people they play with complementary and essential shades of intelligent warmth. Most of Ginger’s support system are adults, brandishing the same paranoiac scars as the young. But Ginger does not see this common quality between the generations, in effect carrying the bomb on her shoulders because she believes that these adults refuse to do so.

The movie’s autobiographic feel makes me slightly hesitant to criticize this or any part of it, but I still must point out my issues, nitpicks though they may be. The protagonists represent the halves of the 1960’s – Ginger is the political half, Rosa the fashionably sexual. And while Ginger and her activism takes a more nuanced spotlight, Rosa and sex are sketches, left woefully underdeveloped. The movie’s depiction of sexuality is also problematic. It implies that Ginger accelerates her activism because of sexual frustration, burying her nose in her political magazines while on the other side of the wall, Rosa is making out with a strange man. It does not help that Ginger constantly sees Roland cheat on her mother (Hendricks), and that Roland and his new partner philosophically justify their adultery. Ginger’s knowledge of Roland’s affair builds to a climax in the devastating last half hour. But still, rationalization and sexual roaming are almost always dangerous combinations in characters. When handled carelessly they threaten to ruin any movie they are in, and I wish Potter saw a better way of dealing with her characters’ amorality.

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Ruby Sparks Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Ruby Sparks Blu-Ray

Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould and Steve Coogan

Written by Zoe Kazan

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox is the quirky comedy from writer/star Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks. Zoe, granddaughter of prolific director Elia Kazan, is following in the footsteps of her parents by writing Ruby Sparks.  Yet when it came to directing the film she was more than happy to let the tandem of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine fame take the lead. It’s been six years since Dayton and Faris stormed the indie scene with the runaway sensation of Sunshine, will Ruby Sparks make that six year span without a follow-up worth the wait?

29 year old high school dropout Calvin, who at 19 wrote a ground-breaking novel, lives a solitary existence in a giant house struggling to write his follow-up. On the advice and orders of his therapist (Gould) Calvin is assigned something to write and that night he dreams of a girl named Ruby (Kazan). Immediately inspired Calvin begins writing a new tome based on a supposed love story between Ruby and himself. His brother Harry (Messina) asks where the book is going and warns him that he’s written his ideal of a girl, but not a real person with his manuscript. Calvin awakes one morning to discover Ruby standing in his kitchen preparing breakfast, completely unaware she has sprung from his imagination. Ruby is the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” he has always fantasized about and this leads him to decide he will never write about her again, until she develops ideas and needs of her own. Calvin does what he swore he wouldn’t and starts rewriting their relationship, and Ruby herself. Of course things go drastically wrong and the real question becomes can Calvin let go of his controlling ways to allow someone else to exist, either in his life or on the page.

Ruby Sparks manages to assemble a great amount of talent behind and in front of the camera. Upon a second viewing the inspiration drawn from Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind becomes even more evident. Kazan’s smart script never becomes trite and pandering like some similar films tend to fall prey to, yet like the aforementioned films it stays the course and proves worth the journey. Paul Dano is fantastic here as Calvin, the awkward introvert faced with the gift of a lifetime that can’t seem to find a way to change his structured/controlling ways. Calvin’s Mother (Bening) and Step Father (Banderas) are the free spirited artistic type of people that served as inspiration in his writing of Ruby, yet he cannot get along with them. Kazan’s Ruby is the girl that Calvin has dreamed off, but she also has her own personality, goals and dreams. What could have been a one dimensional caricature becomes an intense and intimate portrayal in her capable hands.

Ruby Sparks also gets dark, real dark, in its 3rd act and to the credit of directors, Dayton and Feris, they do not let any of the dark scenes pass without impact. The inevitable scene where Calvin comes clean is particularly rough, and it’s never treated as flippant as actions and their implications are painfully played out. The ending is not completely satisfying if not predictable, but it’s far from enough to ruin the overall effect of the film.

The Blu-Ray is very limited on special features coming with 5 featurettes that total less than half an hour in length. The lack of a commentary track here is disappointing as both real life couples of Dayton and Feris and Kazan and Dano would most likely prove a fascinating listen. The featurettes being as short as they are only skim the surface of the production, but are fun none the less.

A film that survives multiple viewings, Ruby Sparks is the best type of romantic comedy, one that challenges the conventions of a relationship without resorting to typical conventions. Ruby still delivers on Blu-Ray and is a solid buy.

Till Next Time

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Ruby Sparks Review (Kirk Haviland)

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Elliot Gould and Steve Coogan

Written by Zoe Kazan

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Actress Zoe Kazan may become a bit of a renaissance woman because of Ruby Sparks. Not only is she the female lead of the film, she also wrote it. Yet when it came to directing the film she was more than happy to let the tandem of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine fame take the lead. It’s been 6 years since Dayton and Faris stormed the indie scene with the runaway sensation of Sunshine, will Ruby Sparks make that six year wait for a follow up worth the time?

Calvin (Dano) is a now 29 year old high school dropout living a solitary existence in a giant house struggling to write his next epic novel. And oh yea,h as a 19 year old he wrote one of the “quintessential American novels” and has been unable to produce a follow-up since. On the advice and orders of his therapist (Gould) Calvin is assigned something to write and that night he dreams of a girl named Ruby (Kazan). Immediately inspired Calvin begins writing a new tome based on a supposed love story between Ruby and himself. His brother Harry (Messina) asks where the book is going and warns him that he’s wrote his ideal of a girl, but not a real person with his manuscript. After more obsessing, and weird discoveries around the house, Calvin awakes one morning to discover Ruby standing in his kitchen preparing breakfast, completely unaware she has sprung from his imagination. Unable to handle the situation and believing he is losing mind Calvin almost loses the literal girl of his dreams until he realizes she indeed has come to life. Ruby is the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” he has always fantasized about and this leads him to decide he would never write about her again (after showing his brother that she really is the girl he wrote by literally telling her what to do via his writing), until she develops ideas and needs of her own. Calvin does what he swore he wouldn’t and starts rewriting their relationship and Ruby herself. Of course things go drastically wrong and the real question becomes can Calvin let go of his controlling ways to allow someone else to exist, either in his life or not.

Ruby Sparks is another of the quirky comedies that have come out as counter-programming this summer like Safety Not Guaranteed and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Written by Kazan, Ruby manages to assemble a great amount of talent behind and in-front and behind the camera. With obvious inspiration drawn from Marc Webb’s 500 Days of Summer and Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ruby does manage to deliver a very charming and entertaining film backed with strong performances from our leads. Paul Dano is fantastic here as Calvin, the awkward introvert faced with the gift of a lifetime that can’t seem to find a way to change his structured/controlling ways. Calvin’s Mother (Bening) and Step Father (Banderas) are the free spirited artistic type of people Ruby was based on, yet he cannot get along with them. Dano’s awkward manic energy works well in this context and he truly delivers an engaging performance here.  Kazan’s Ruby is that girl that Calvin has dreamed off, but she also has her own personality, goals and dreams. What could have been a one dimensional caricature becomes an intense and intimate portrayal in her capable hands.  Ruby Sparks gets dark, real dark, in its 3rd act and to the credit of directors, Dayton and Feris, they do not let any of the dark scenes pass without impact. The inevitable scene where Calvin comes clean is particularly rough, and it’s never treated as flippant as actions and their implications are painfully played out. The ending may not satisfy everyone, but it did work for me even if it was a tad familiar.

A strong script with solid direction that does not shy away from the darker, harder to watch situations of the script, Ruby Sparks goes farther into some of those darker places than most of the so called “romantic comedies” it will clearly be marketed as. Ruby Sparks is both charming and challenging at the same time and for that I give Ruby a recommend.

Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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