Movie review: Ruby Sparks

By Columbus Alive
From the August 9, 2012 edition

Calvin finally found the perfect girl. Smart and sexy, challenging and supportive, she complements him in every way. Only one problem: She’s imaginary. Yeah, I’ve been there, man …

“Ruby Sparks” is the sort of high-concept romantic comedy that you’ll either roll with or find obnoxiously twee. I’m a sucker for this stuff, and I kinda fell in love.

Calvin (Paul Dano) is a young writer whose first novel took the world by storm. He’s struggled to repeat its success and is stuck in an endless loop of writer’s block. Salinger much?

He has a minor breakthrough after a session with his shrink and starts writing a magnificent character named Ruby Sparks (played by Zoe Kazan). She’s lovely — perfect, in fact — and then she shows up in his apartment. In real life. Perhaps.

“Sparks” was written by 28-year-old Kazan (the daughter of two screenwriters and Dano’s real-life girlfriend), and directed by husband-and-wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”).

All of that on-set familiarity lends itself to a breezy and sweet tale that finds plenty of humor in its concept. Calvin’s on-page tweaks to Ruby’s “character” have real-world impact that’s sometimes funny, sometimes tragic.

Despite that somewhat cutesy setup, Kazan pens a surprisingly well-rounded script, eventually taking things in a dark direction reminiscent of Charlie Kaufman.

It’s a fairy tale, sure, but what else do you want out of a love story?