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

Movie Junkie TO

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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

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

Follow me on twitter @moviejunkieto

Contact me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

Haywire Review

Steven Soderbergh’s latest film Haywire is clearly a vehicle for MMA star Gina Carano’s entrance into the world of action films. As far as action stars go, Carano seems to fit the bill. She’s quick, strong, charismatic, and attractive. She can also roundhouse a bad guy in the face with tremendous ferocity, or if the fight goes to the ground, she has a handful of submission moves to make her opponent look like an oversized rag-doll. Add to this an all-star cast featuring the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas, and you would think that Haywire would be a certain success. Unfortunately this is not the case, as Haywire stumbles out of the gates and never even approaches an entertaining action movie, let alone a coherent narrative.

Carano’s debut into the world of features films can be viewed as a success if isolated from the rest of Haywire. Her acting and dialogue delivery may need some work, but her coquettish facial expressions mixed with her volcanic fighting ability make her an interesting action star, not simply a one-dimensional cardboard cut-out. In addition to Carano’s onscreen presence, the fight scenes are often fairly good, especially one with Fassbender in which Carano’s strikes appear to be absolutely bone-crunching. However, these positives are too few and far between given that the script appears to have been written by a dozen monkeys randomly banging away at a keyboard.

I may be exaggerating regarding the script, but only slightly. Haywire should have been a no-brainer. A film that audiences could walk into and lose themselves in the action for ninety minutes. Unfortunately, Haywire thinks it’s an intelligent action movie, but it is anything but. Constant location changes (Dublin, Barcelona, USA) and relentless references to off screen characters (Rodrigo, Kenneth, Paul), imply that quantity is equivalent to an intelligent plot, but the complexity turns out to be simply boring and confusing. At no point does Haywire even come close to a coherent narrative. I don’t even feel like getting into the incredibly ineffective Jazz soundtrack or the snail like pace created by Soderbergh. For me, if a film doesn’t even attempt to have an interesting story, then I am not interested in the other details, they are simply incidental.

 

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